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Fraud, scamming, chicanery, hocus pocus, swindling by any name is an act of malicious persuasion.


Frank Walker, a Certified Fraud Examiner and Trial Strategist, said it best:


The function of a scam is always to sway present action toward future hopes; it is action taken by a con artist to the benefit of himself and to the detriment of his target.

Fraud is an intentional deception with the purpose of injury to another by the use of knowingly made false statements.


Manipulation and deception starts early


Let's take a look at the average 4-year old.  Oh my.  A master in the art of manipulation, though not with malicious intent.


That's the age at which most children discover that their parents can't always tell when the truth is being told, or aren't certain if the truth is being told, and take full, unfair advantage of the situation.  Depending on the moment, we either giggle or desperately pray for patience.


At one time or another little kids will try to get away with as much as they can using deception. Kids have a tendency to deceive their parents and teachers and each other as long as they feel they can get away with it.  We all did it.  (Yes you did, even if you don't remember doing it.)


That is normal and doesn't mean the child will grow up to be a criminal.  It's merely a phase parents have to deal with that offers the opportunity to teach right from wrong.  Or rather, emphasize that right is better than wrong because most children instinctively know the difference. 


Moving right along, many teenagers go through a phase during which deception is the rule, unfortunately with parents being the primary target, and teenage girls being the primary target for most teenage boys.  At this point, true manipulation raises its ugly head.  Manipulate: to control or play upon by artful, unfair, or insidious means especially to one's own advantage.


Hmm.  Sounds a lot like fraud, doesn't it?  Again, it doesn't mean all those teenagers will grow up to be scammers; that's why it's called a phase.   But, in the face of all the above experience, one would think that deception would be easy to spot, right?  Alas, no.


Why is fraud difficult to spot?


One of the main reasons that fraud is difficult to spot is that there are so many different schemes.  See our partial list of scams (warning - you'd better tighten your seatbelt).


And, we want to immediately trust folks who are friendly to us, who are helpful and tell us what we want to hear, who offer us hope and a better life - and in health scams, life itself.


The desire to trust others without question is so strong that many fraud victims are devastated when they realize that they have to practice the art of suspicion as a lifestyle: learning that it's okay to trust others, just not too quickly.


But no matter how we look at it, the real reason fraud profits rival profits from illegal drugs is that it's entirely based on persuasion.    


Next: When persuasion is a bad thing




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