Have you ever taken one of those viral quizzes on Facebook or elsewhere?
Have you ever stayed in a job or gig you really hated?
Have you ever wore yourself out trying to help someone who really did not want or need to be helped?
Do you pay your taxes on time each year?
We better stop with the questions, there’s a roll coming! These questions might not appear related, but if you answered yes to any of them, then you are a potential fraud victim. This is the world we live in and we did it to ourselves.
Here’s one of the ways we did this. The estimated number of global social media users will reach 2.77 billion in 2019. Any website where the masses get together is an open target for fraudsters. The owners and investors of mass traffic websites, who are themselves pretty venal, can and will only do so much to prevent fraud. Sad to tell, many are actually fraud enablers hiding behind artificial intelligence (AI). If you have ever surfed the internet or find yourself with an online addiction, then you’re already a victim. You have already been targeted with or without your knowledge. Data theft schemes and scams are so common now; we don’t even notice them until it comes around to adding up the material costs and financial losses.
For decades, we have enjoyed personal quizzes in magazines that have sworn to tell us “what kind of friend” we are or if a “relationship is right for you.” So what was once a harmless activity is now toxic behavior across the Internet. The consequences of allowing our data out there have utterly changed. Stealing your personal info is par for the tech era. Very profitable enterprise. So much so it might even make you wonder what a personal genetic code is going to be worth as soon as we start publishing them? This is not fiction. It’s science fact.
Recently, Facebook found itself at the center of a massive data breach. This breach exposed the personal details of eighty-seven million people. The leveraged weapon of choice was online quizzes. Thanks to whistleblower Christopher Wylie, the world heard that data firm Cambridge Analytica had been using Facebook quizzes for years to steal personal info. They then used that data to build detailed profiles of American users. After a deep analysis, they exploited this info for profit and power. A serious invasion of all personal privacy. Probable subversion of all our democracies. This is the frenzy of fraud we live in right now.
Like all mass fraud events, the true consequences of this Cambridge Analytica/ Facebook mass fraud event will take years to understand, if ever. These invasive profiles focused on what people value, their worries, and political ideals. Some people might just ignore this incident since users didn’t seem to lose any money in the process. In fact, Facebook’s stock surged by 4.5% following a congressional hearing about the event. Were they right? We probably will never know the true cost of all the fraud arising from this one breach. There is one thing all of this proves now: There’s only one person who really cares about your data and how it might be abused. That’s you. Otherwise, you will pay the price. Be prepared to dig deep as well. Not just with money, but with time and energy too. Because this is what fraud steals from you.
Cambridge Analytica is not the only entity using quizzes to exploit people’s info. Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout, an identity protection and data risk services firm, warns against these quizzes. He says that some of them include questions that seek to gather information on what could be the answer to your security questions. We don’t always know who the makers of these quizzes are and what their aims are. Some of these pop quizzes even have some of the telltale signs of scams such as bad spelling. So it is important to be careful before you become a dupe in a data-stealing scam. Only do quizzes on websites you know you can trust, Levin advises.
But the real lesson in the Cambridge Analytica scandal is seeing how valuable our minds are to scammers. Knowing people on a psychological level is key to fraudsters because they play to our emotions to gain trust. This is what makes punctual taxpayers vulnerable to being defrauded. These are people who are honest and play by the rules and assume the same of others. Their sense of integrity and justice is seen by con artists as a weakness and thus an easy target. Con artists are masters at tricking people into trusting them. Some of the tactics they use include targeting the vulnerable, using your name to appear familiar, revealing their “insecurities,” mimicking your body language which reportedly increases empathy, and taking advantage of your embarrassment. Infamous con man, Victor Lustig, swindled a man out of $70,000 for alleged Eiffel Tower scrap metal. However, due to embarrassment, the victim never reported the crime. This is one example of how damaging the psychological impact of fraud can be.
When fraud is an everyday event, people soon see it as normal. This acceptance can create a vicious cycle lasting for years. It is the same psychology behind people who spend their lives in ugly jobs or bad relationships. These nasty situations become normal and accepted. It is also easy to find others who can relate to such situations which result in a shared misery that feels normal. This is what normalizing misfortune can look like on an individual level. What does it look like on a national level? Massive data breaches. Huge levels of e-commerce fraud. Even election fraud. Deborah L. Rhode, author of Cheating: Ethics in Everyday Life, says “The more that individuals think that cheating is widespread, the easier it becomes to justify. This is how cultures of dishonesty take root.”
In a study published by the journal Cognition, researchers found that what people considered to be “normal” was a combination of what is “typical” with what is “ideal.” The problem with this is that when something “bad” becomes typical, that bad thing becomes part of our normal. Let’s look at it like this:
- Typical + Ideal = Normal
- If typical is bad then, Bad + Ideal = Normal
Let’s not let fraud become our new normal. This is why we must stop fraud now! There is still hope.
If Bad + Ideal = Normal, then the reverse is also true. Good + Ideal = Normal, too. We can find the good by stopping bad through fraud prevention. David Tracey, author of Fraud Prevention 101 (FP101) created a course designed to do just that – protect everyone from the abuses of fraud.
FP101 is your first line of defense against fraud. This great course includes a sharp history of fraud, how fraud operates, various types of fraud and how to develop the right mindset to protect yourself from fraud. There are plenty of good (and usually expensive) professional fraud prevention programs out there. These are mostly high end and carry a big investment of your time and your money. Most of what’s already out there are tailored for corporations and businesses to protect clients and their assets. Our identities are important assets too, yet there is not much support out there for everyday people who need to protect themselves but do not know where to start.
FP101 is where you can start. The course is easy to follow, so there is no need to come in with any background knowledge. Your experience, curiosity, and desire to learn are your only prerequisites. Don’t worry if you’re not tough-minded, that’s ok. We’ll upgrade you!
Now more than ever, fraud prevention education is critical in a climate where fraud is continuing to grow. “It is estimated that over 95% of victims do not report fraud after an event.” Is this because of the embarrassment of being a con artist’s victim? Is it because fraud is becoming normal, so we feel like nothing can be done? As technology continues to advance, criminals will find ways to adapt. It can feel impossible to stay on top of such constantly changing evil schemes. But even if these crooks manage to find new ways to deceive people, their mindset is still the same. With the right education and a little focus, you will be able to spot fraud before it happens. And if it does happen, you’ll be empowered to know exactly what to do. You owe it to yourself to be protected. FP101 can help you do just that. As you read this, someone somewhere is being defrauded. We don’t have the luxury of time to wait when fraud is happening at every given moment. Don’t delay. Act today and take the FP101 course. You’ll be glad you did.