May 17, 2002
** Listen to this column
on your computer, iPod or other audio player **
Fraud is everywhere, from the city streets to the corporate boardroom.
Lately we seem to be swimming in an ocean of fraud. Worse yet, some of
us in the high-tech world are aiding and abetting it, if not committing
fraud outright ourselves. Any career is built on developing a level of
trust with your clients. Any connection to any business with even the
appearance of being fraudulent will eventually bring your career to an
end. Sure, it might have short term benefits; expensive houses, flashy
cars, etc., but you will find it hard even remembering these items when
the whole thing goes bust. Steer clear of participating in anything that
smells of a scam, whether perpetrated by an individual or a large company.
You owe it to yourself, your career and your family to stick to the straight
What are you doing?
One type of fraud that effects high-tech careerists directly is unsolicited
email or SPAM. As a user of the Internet you are deluged with ads to buy
this miracle crème, invest in the latest multi-level marketing
scheme or “make thousands of dollars from your home.” It amazes
me that any high-tech careerist would have anything to do with creating
and delivering spam. Don’t they know better? Aren’t they deluged
with the same amount of email junk that all of us receive? You almost
want to shake them by the shoulders and say, “you must use your
powers for good, not evil.” It would probably have little effect,
but it might make you feel better. These people are contributing to the
demise of a useful Internet. They are taking this great tool we have been
given and driving it into the ground. It is like using a fine silver butter
knife to tighten a loose screw in your kitchen.
I make a call to all high-tech careerists; don’t work on technology
that you wouldn’t want directed at yourself. Don’t build software
that invades people’s privacy. Don’t create or use annoying
“pop-up” advertising. Don’t use your technology in an
attempt to defraud others, in any fashion. Just because we can do something,
doesn’t mean we should. Let this become your watch phrase as you
develop or build your high-tech career.
You are involved
At the moment, my biggest concern is high-tech workers who assist, directly
or indirectly, in the stealing of hundreds of thousands of dollar through
credit card fraud, abuse of Paypal-like payment systems and other outright,
criminal frauds. Some might claim that they aren’t culpable because
they were only providing technology services, not actually touching the
money that resulted. This is bunk. If you continue to work for a company
that is engaging in fraud, you are involved. If they are using technology
you developed or equipment you operate, you are involved. If you find
yourself in a situation such as this, there is only one thing for you
do…get out…now! If you don’t, you could find yourself
involved in civil litigation, criminal charges or even sent to prison.
Big or small
It should be clear that fraud can happen in any size company, from the
smallest startup to the largest corporations. It seems very likely that
when the Enron debacle is finally dissected we will find fraud on both
a small and large scale. Worse yet, we will find scores of executives,
managers and employees who decided to do nothing. For whatever reason,
these people decided to do nothing, not even get a different job, when
confronted with this fraud. They decided is wasn’t any of their
business. These people collectively carry a small portion of responsibility
for Enron’s failure. Worse yet, they also share responsibility for
the loss of thousands of jobs, the decimation of the retirement plans
and, very possibly, the end of their own careers.
As high-tech careerists all of you have the skills, desire and ability
to live wonderful lives, filled with better than average luxuries for
you and your families. Frauds will try and tempt you with visions of great
wealth or greater power. They will play to the common human weaknesses
of greed and fear. They will lie, cheat and steal, from their “customers”
and probably even you. Don’t get involved. Don’t let it happen.
You only need to look around you to see the results if you do.
Available from CafePress.com