A co-worker and I attended a fraud prevention seminar today.  Of course there were some key points to take away, but what stuck with me more were the stories of fraudulent offenders.  In addition to countless stories of secretaries, executives and employee-of-the-year recipients who’d done wrong, I found out today that there are at least two websites that were established solely to aid people in defrauding others.  On one, you simply type in the amount you want to cheat your way into and fake receipts are created for you in seconds.  On another, bogus invoices can be created in batch form.  People have created a service around helping others commit fraud (for a nominal fee, of course).

I’m not sure which group is turning my stomach more – those who commit the fraud or those who are profiting, seemingly legally, from aiding in the fraudulent activity.  The fraud stories include those people who just get greedy and feel entitled to whatever they want, so they take it.  But, they also include those people who unwittingly end up in tragic or dire circumstances and make poor choices in times of crisis, believing they’ll make it right one day.  The former makes my blood boil.  The latter makes me struggle.  Have we not all felt, at some time in our lives, the consequences of bad decisions made in the heat of hopelessness?  Perhaps it was not to the extent of theft or fraud, but bad decisions none-the-less.  Who can say with certainty that, faced with thousands of dollars in unforseen medical expenses, a house being foreclosed upon and a denial for food stamps in your hand, you would not ‘borrow’ fifty dollars from petty cash – just to feed the kids for the weekend, knowing you’ll pay it back by Tuesday?  I’d like to think I wouldn’t do that.  I can say I believe I would never do that.  But, I’ve never had to face that type of stress. 

Think of your day today.  Can you say you were completely honest with every person you encountered today?  Did you go the entire day without committing any fraud (intending to deceive someone)?  When your friend asked how she looked in that green dress that makes her skin look jaundiced, did you tell her to change?  When your most annoying and time-consuming customer was finally leaving, did you tell him it was agony to help him?   We all commit deception every day.  We alter who we are and what we say to fit situations.  The difference is the magnitude and the motivation.

There is a fine line we walk between courtesy and deception.  Somewhere on that line we find an authentic life.  Wavering from side to side we traverse the expanse of our life, fully surrounded by the hand of God.  He is our safety net, should we falter. He is also our guide, if we chose to follow. 

I’ve really struggled today, knowing these things about fraudsters (as they’re called by people in-the-know).  A person stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from a not-for-profit agency created to help feed people in need.  How do you reconcile that – with your boss, with yourself, with God??  How does that ever seem okay to someone?  I will never understand.

Make yourself an honest man, and then you may be sure there is one less rascal in the world.  ~Thomas Carlyle

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