CEOs and Affinity Fraud

By: Tonya Mead, CFE, CHFI,  PI, MBA, MA Educational Psychology

One longs for the industrialists of the American society who held the values of capitalism alongside valor, hard work, integrity and positive right action.

I read an article last night written by Reverend   Dr. Terry Drew Karanen, appearing in the September 2017 Science of Mind magazine. Karanen referenced industrialists such as Rockefeller, Heinz, and Carnegie. He included business leaders of this decade like Steve Jobs and Oprah Winfrey.  What so encouraged Karanen was that these exceptional business leaders utilized the “practical prosperity law of circulation.” [1, para 3, line 1].  To crystallize his point, he emphasized the example of the Heinz family.  When  “the family first began their business, 10 cents out of every dollar was given back to the community. As the years progressed this 10 percent formula continued to increase, often to half or more of what the corporation earned.” [1, para 3, line 5].

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So why am I writing about industrialists? How does this relate to cyber crime and fraud?

There is so much vitriol going back and forth in the media today. One longs for industrialists whose thoughts center on thinking big, building big, giving back big and brushing pettiness aside. Single-minded tenancy comes to mind. But where is it now? Who exhibits this positive trait?

The business leaders resigned from the Economic Advisory Council to express their anguish toward a president who appears clueless in reading the mood of the public. But, I am a small business owner—hoping to make it really big one day. I don’t have the luxury of throwing in the towel, picking up my bag of marbles because the leader doesn’t act in accordance to my will. Or responds and reacts the way I deem most appropriate.

Neither does the average American. Bills, kid’s college tuition and retirement planning come to mind.

The Internet as a Vehicle for Social Activism

“How the Internet has Changed the Face of Crime,” a Master’s Thesis prepared by Sara Norden in December 2013, explains that the cyber criminal turns to the internet as a way to “strive to bolster their socioeconomic status using the quickest means possible.” [2, page 7, line 4]. In a separate study, in 2014 NIH found that internet users of advanced age feel more connected and less isolated with internet usage.

And, in describing social hackivism (cyber hacking for social causes), “the  Internet has provided a new venue for stimulating civic participation and engagement [2, page 13, para 2, line 3].  After reading that sentence yet again, one could  exchange the word stimulating for simulating. Why? In 2010, Psychology Today reported that social media has a way of “contribut[ing] to the fostering of relationships that, in their lack of authenticity, can sometimes be at best awkward — and at other times at worst tragic — in their consequences.” One negative consequence is affinity fraud.

Affinity Fraud and Cyber Crime

According to Catherine Lofland, CPA writing for ACFE, “affinity fraud refers to investment scams that target members of identifiable groups, such as a church, alumni association, or professional organization.”   Online affinity groups on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and the like make it easy for criminals to create a fake profile, join these groups, bond with its members and begin a full-fledged scamming operation.

One wonders if the CEOs used this window of opportunity not to find a way to move this economy forward so that we all win, but to present a false façade of being a man or person of the people. This attitude contrasts with those reflected by the small and mittelstand business people I met today at a networking breakfast .  Each member embodied that capitalist spirit, espoused by this Zig Ziglar quote, “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.”

I’m sure as you read this article, you can think of business leaders in your community, neighbors and friends who give to get back. You see their logos on your kid’s baseball jersey,  on your church hand fans, back-to-school pamphlets,  and they adorn the stadium walls.   Please take a moment to thank them and spend your dollars locally. This might be how America will be changed for the better.  We may be our only hope. For, along with the president, the resigning industrialists may have misread the public’s mood too.

Tonya J. Mead, CFE, CHFI, PI, MBA, MA, Certified K-12 Administrator and School Psychologist is author of Fraud in Education: Beyond the Wrong Answer and president of Shared Knowledge, LLC

Resources (non-hyperlinked)

  1. Rev. Dr. Terry D. Karanen, “As we serve, so we prosper.” Science of Mind (September 2017), Vol. 90, No. 9, pg. 33, Centers for Spiritual Living, Golden, CO.
  2. S. Norden, ““How the Internet has Changed the Face of Crime, December 2013, Florida Gulf Coast University, Fort Meyers, FL.