Sunday, November 16, 2008

Curious about Fraud: Have You Experienced It? How Do You Feel about It? What Do You Do to Avoid It?

Definition of Fraud: Deception deliberately practiced with a view to gaining an unlawful or unfair advantage; artifice by which the right or interest of another is injured; injurious stratagem; deceit; trick. An intentional perversion of truth for the purpose of obtaining some valuable thing or promise from another. A trap or snare.

But I'm acutely aware that the possibility of fraud is even more prevalent in today's world because of the Internet and cell phones and the opportunity for instant communication with strangers.” - Armistead Maupin, American novelist

This week’s blog is about fraud. Why? Because this past week I was a victim and I want to warn as many people as possible so they won’t also become victims. It’s not any fun , but I realize that it can be avoided.

I admit that I had become rather complacent and, like you, I tend to trust everyone. Oh, yes. I do have updated virus protection and a strong firewall. I am also careful about phishing. I don’t go to sites that ask for passwords and other information in my e-mails. But, I did give information to the hacker(s) who contacted me through one of my Facebook friends. How did that happen?

The message from my friend informed me that my photo was featured on the website whose link was given. Thinking right away about the good PR, I clicked immediately. When I reached the site, there were blurry pictures in the background and I was told that to see mine I needed to enter my e-mail address and Facebook password. Caught up in the curiosity and excitement, I told them what they wanted.

Of course, I never got to the photo, but soon found out what the whole goal of the original message was. The clever hacker – who must have a program that performs this fast and easily – had sent the same message to close to all of my 700 friends. I was receiving questions galore and other messages indicating that many of my friends had responded as I had. I then spent at least four hours posting warnings, sending explanations, deleting the original message appearing on friends’ walls, and feeling devastated that I had caused these problems. I am still answering questions and messages.

I mentioned that I had become complacent and trusting. Since all of this happened, I realized that at a lot of the websites – especially the Social Networking websites that ask for a password - do not ask one to log out or sign out. They also seldom suggest that we reset our password regularly. I am now doing both. I now log out and have also reset my passwords. It’s sort of like closing the barn door after the horse has been stolen, but, at least, the most I lost was time. (And, I hope, not many friends.)

When I looked up fraud quotations to share with you, I found a large number that address political fraud – including voter fraud – and corporate fraud. So, I will share only a few in this blog, that I think are interesting:
  • Things gained through unjust fraud are never secure.” – Sophocles, Greek poet
  • There are three things in the world that deserve no mercy, hypocrisy, fraud, and tyranny.” - Frederick William Robertson, English clergyman
  • Style is a fraud. I always felt the Greeks were hiding behind their columns.” - Willem de Kooning, American artist
  • Some people think that prayer just means asking for things, and if they fail to receive exactly what they asked for, they think the whole thing is a fraud.” - Gerald Vann, British theologian
  • Whoever is detected in a shameful fraud is ever after not believed even if they speak the truth.” – Phaedrus, Roman poet
  • Why, I ask, isn't it possible that advertising as a whole is a fantastic fraud, presenting an image of America taken seriously by no one, least of all by the advertising men who create it?” - David Riesman, American sociologist

And one more from the Greek poet, Sophocles, “Rather fail with honor than succeed by fraud.” I feel that is the best advice I can give, embrace and live by. Be careful. Be skeptical. And do watch what you click on.