As published in Scotsman Guide's Residential Edition, December 2006.
If you're like many people, you likely haven't really read your company's or organization's code of ethics closely. These codes are crucial, however, and it is essential to read and to follow them.
If you just can't find the time, let me sum these codes up for you: Don't mislead, cheat or steal. Don't break the law. Don't drag your organization's, company's or industry's name through the mud.
Easy enough. Right?
In reality, there are only two reasons to commit fraud or to do something unethical: 1. You convince yourself; or 2. Someone else convinces you.
To be aware and to steer clear of fraudulent activities, it is essential to understand what goes into convincing yourself to do something unethical as well as the ways that others can persuade you.
How you convince yourself
I've heard people say that they committed fraud unwittingly.
Unwittingly? I don't believe it. People who commit fraud "unwittingly" are lying to themselves. We all know when we are doing something wrong.
Ask yourself if this sounds unwitting: A person sees an opportunity for profit. This opportunity involves having an advantage over another party. This advantage involves misleading the other party by providing false information or by withholding information that, if known, would remove the advantage. And the result is a financial profit.
That's unethical and probably fraudulent.
People will often justify their actions and convince themselves that their unethical behavioris OK. Justifications are simply excuses for doing the wrong thing.
The excuse I hear most often is, "Everyone else does it." I don't buy it. Maybe we've seen or heard of some people doing it. If we're honest with ourselves, we know that this excuse is ludicrous.
I've heard of a litmus test you can use to determine if something is unethical. Ask yourself if you would tell your mother about the action or behavior in question. Go ahead and use that one if you'd like, but it doesn't work for some of us. There are many things I wouldn't tell my mother that aren't unethical or illegal.
How someone else convinces you
People can be pretty sneaky.
Years ago, I got involved in a white-collar crime: mortgage-fraud conspiracy. You could say I was recruited. I say this because committing fraud was not on my "loan officer agenda" before I met my co-conspirators. Yet I knowingly -- with my wits intact -- got involved and stayed involved.
The group's leader employed several techniques of influence, which I can now identify, to get and keep me involved in the fraudulent schemes. He wasn't a wizard or hypnotist. He was just good and sneaky.
I describe him now as fast, slick, cunning and smooth, but then, I would have said he was: likable, friendly, funny, cool and smart.
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