A different kind of sickness

It’s a despicable human who preys on people to defraud them of money. What kind of sickness drives a person to such lows?

It’s a sad fact that every year, millions of seniors fall victim to fraud. They are prime targets because they tend be trusting, have savings and good credit, and struggle to identify scoundrels posing as government agencies, tech support, repair people, or even family members.

Another tragic group of victims are the thousands of international students seeking an honest education abroad. Perpetrators raise false alarms about their visas or take money for fake scholarship applications and non-existent accommodations. What a horrible opening experience for the very people the world needs as global ambassadors.

What drives a person to have no scruples, no decency, no heart? What happens that makes a person do such abhorrent things to innocent strangers?

Experts say fraud is a learned behaviour and there are two main categories of fraudster. One is the con artist. This kind uses self-confidence to trick victims with well-honed skills in deception. Think of the circus showman.

The second type is usually an otherwise honest person who succumbs to criminal acts. The ingredients are pressure and opportunity. Pressure is often financial – mounting debt, living beyond means, or pride in a reputation for financial success. Opportunity comes from knowledge of how to commit the crime without getting caught.

How do these people justify their actions? Some feel like they are righting a wrong. This is common in workplaces where fraud is rationalized as a retribution for something deemed unfair practice by employers. Having a rationale doesn’t make it right, but however bad, at least there is a motivation that can be understood.

But by the numbers, there are far too many scoundrels who take advantage of vulnerable people for no understandable reason.  They are crooks of the worst variety.  They are evil-minded, plain and simple. It’s a different kind of sickness.

What can honest, law-abiding citizens do to counteract this social malady?

The answer is in knowing that fraud is like a virus. It’s moves from person to person and mutates.

There are and always will be scoundrels on this Earth. Some of them, most certainly, have clinical cases of sociopathic personality disorders, the result of who knows what. They need diagnosis and treatment.

But far too many crooks have simply lost their morality or perhaps never had it.

It’s a sad realization. There is, however, an inoculation against this illness. Everyone needs to educate themselves.

Just like any other chronic disease, it’s too late if you wait for it to happen. Instead, take steps now to protect yourself.

Do your research before handing over money. Get a second opinion. Don’t trust people you don’t know. Don’t believe everything you read or see. Change your passwords. Keep your private information safe and don’t share it. Know the common scams.

There is a game taught to children living in dangerous neighbourhoods. A player is asked to kick a ball down a line between two rows of the rest of the children, who are instructed to try to kick the ball away. Of course, the child with the ball has no hope of success. But then the player is asked to try again, this time surrounded by a group of other players serving as protectors.  This time, the child can kick the ball safely to the other end.

It’s a good lesson for all. Surround yourself with protectors.

There are, thankfully, a lot of people who genuinely want to make the world a better place.

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