Fraud

Fraud

Fraud | Guy L. PaceFraud is a deceit, trickery, or con perpetrated for profit, according to Dictionary.Com. We hear about fraud all the time, maybe not with that particular term, but it all boils down to the same thing. It feeds on human greed.

Greed, of course, is one of the Seven Deadly Sins (pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth). Boy, are we going to have fun with these over the next few posts.

I sometimes think we missed getting an eighth sin in there. Gullibility.

Moving on.

Frailties

Fraud includes scams and things that prey on human frailties and the most common frailty is gullibility. Most recently–on Facebook–a post being share around claims some random Facebook users will be selected for various prizes from the Ellen Degeneres show. When I see someone I know posting these things, I let them know it is a fraud and to delete it. In this case, Facebook removed the post in question and I didn’t get any copies of the text for analysis. Sorry.

But, that’s my old IT security dude coming out. We need to look at the kinds of messages that gets folks to share, forward, repeat these scams. One, they claim to be from some pop-culture, popular organization or individual. Two, they offer “too good to be true” prizes, gifts, miracles. Three, all you have to do is like, share, copy/paste/post, or otherwise perpetuate the hoax.

It doesn’t seem to matter there’s no possibility of getting one of the prizes mentioned just for liking or sharing it. Folks get sucked in every time. It is no surprise. Every part of the fraud message is designed to get a greed, lust, pride, wrath, envy response–depending on the goal of the message. The perpetrators of these had a lot of practice. Remember the old chain emails and Nigerian 419 scams in the ’80’s and ’90’s?

Character

How does this translate to our writing? Well, character. We build characters to reflect the human condition. And most humans are pretty gullible, among other things. Based on what we see on Facebook, a few choice turns of phrase easily manipulate people. Temptations that feed on our greed, lust, or pride.

A fellow author, Thomas Waite, recently released his new novel Shadowed (this is an adult-themed novel, so you’ve been warned). The main character, Dylan, is my case in point. Dylan’s main flaw is his gullibility (Thomas, you can argue this, he’s your character). The bad guy sucks him into situations that compromise him, his future, and his love interest, and could have ended his life. He makes bad decisions. Repeatedly. That’s about all I can say without spoiling a great read for you.

But the character Dylan is like most of us, woefully unprepared for the bad guys. We don’t recognize the signs, the language, the dangers. Until it is too late. On Facebook, the end result is often a compromised account. In real life, the end result may be yellow tape around a crime scene and a chalk marked silhouette.

Apply the Flaw

Isn’t this the stuff of thrillers, though? The flawed main character, the long con, the love interest, the really bad guy.

So, apply the flaw. Make the main character gullible. Use what you see on Facebook for examples of how to dupe and manipulate. Think like the bad guy. What can the bad guy get the main character to do? How will he/she approach it? Have some fun. I think Thomas had a lot of fun writing Shadowed.

Remember. The good guy has to have some redeeming quality that allows him to win out in the end. Just saying.

Keep writing.

 

Reviews & Reviewing

Reviews & Reviewing

Reviews | Guy L. PaceI’m involved in a round-robin review group for Christian writers on Goodreads. I love writing and reading. Reviewing other’s work is a challenge.

I don’t mind getting reviews from others, be they readers or writers. I learn from them no matter how critical they might get. But, writing a review of someone else’s work … that can be a minefield.

Fortunately, the folks involved in the round-robin are honest and direct, and give good reviews.

I wrote a couple of reviews so far and they were honest, constructive reviews of stories that I liked. They aren’t my normal reading fare, but it never hurts to explore new material. I posted the reviews, then crawled into a corner until the authors responded positively to the comments.

Whew!

More Reviews

I’m well into another book that I’m enjoying and will review it soon. In addition, I have some new reviews for Sudden Mission, both on Amazon and Goodreads. In this next round, I hope to see more reviews of Nasty Leftovers. This round-robin works out well, and my reviews are increasing.

Granted, the new reviews are by other authors and not my target audience (teens). But, getting teens to review on Amazon or anywhere else is very difficult. I used a little meme on Facebook a couple of times to prod folks to review.

Reviewing | Guy L. PaceThe rules are simple, if not completely accurate today. I know Amazon has changed some of their rules for reviews. For example, they usually do not accept reviews of books by friends of the author, or family members. How they figure that out is beyond me.

The Rules

As for Rule #1, that is true. But, if you buy the book and review it, you get a “verified purchase” tag on your review. That might impact the “algorithms.”

Rule #4, though, is the most important. Authors need reviews. More reviews move a book’s status in the rankings on Amazon. They make the title more visible to other readers. They help other readers make decisions on what to choose to read.

Sure, not all reviews or ratings are five-star. Not everyone likes the same thing. My books aren’t everyone’s favorite genre. But, a review is a review and I appreciate every single one I get.

Hurts

Some comments in reviews can inflict pain in the author. That’s part of growing a thick skin–which we need to survive. No one is perfect, no author writes a perfect book. Accepting that and moving on is important.

I try to keep that in mind as I review other author’s work. No, the book isn’t my cup of tea. Maybe the book needs an editor. Maybe there are issues with the story. But, I can address that with constructive, positive comments. I made the mistake of being too blunt and critical in a review once. It hurt a relationship. That’s the minefield I mentioned earlier.

Care. You write and you read. The only way this business can get better is if we all care and comment positively and constructively.

Keep reading.

Keep writing.

 

 

 

Tabitha Caplinger

Tabitha Caplinger is a friend I’ve never met in person. We used to be fellow authors in the Booktrope Vox Dei stable.

Evidence

Evidence

Evidence | Guy L. PaceEvidence is a funny thing. Sometimes, what you think is evidence, isn’t.

As a jounalist (See SPJ’s Standards), attribution was always part of presenting facts. When you could not attribute information to a reliable source, an authoritative individual, or a direct witness, it became hearsay. When you reference an act and relate it to a possible perpetrator, you always use the word “alleged.”

For example: “Joe allegedly took the candy bar and left the store.” You don’t say he allegedly stole the candy bar, that would define the act. The act of taking the candy bar and leaving the store is an act of theft. However, the journalist is not law enforcement, nor judge and jury. The journalist is the conveyer of information. So, you don’t define the alleged act.

I won’t detail how certain recent New York Times articles completely ignore the SPJ’s standards.

Hearsay

As we move further into the story, we bring up more information.

“A witness said someone who saw Joe take the candy bar told them that Joe did actually take the candy bar.”

The above statement doesn’t name the source other than as a “witness.” Worse, the witness claimed that some other un-named person else actually saw the act. This can only be classified as hearsay and should have little or no place in the story. It encourages pre-judgement without direct evidence.

So, someone called the police, who arrest Joe and gather evidence. After review of the evidence, the police drop charges, and Joe goes home with his candy bar.

What Happened?

Well, evidence. There are rules of evidence and you can find them at these links:

Cornell Law

Rules of Evidence

I’m not going to go into great detail here, but the primary measure on evidence is relevance (See Rule 401). Hearsay does not stand up to the relevance standard.

If a journalist references third- and fourth-hand information (hearsay) without direct attribution, he or she did not do their job. So, they missed the part where the cashier told the police that Joe handed her a dollar before he left the store, and the part where the store security camera recorded the event completely (two examples of direct evidence collected by the police). Direct evidence shows “… the existence of a fact in question, without the intervention of the proof of any other fact ….”

Forensics

In my study and practice of digital forensics, my role involved identifying an actor and placing that person in a seat or in front of a device at a specific time. There is a rougher term for it I won’t use here. This involved gathering direct evidence from the device, from devices and/or services connected to the device, and from devices or equipment in the area (video cameras and recordings).

The important thing in the digital investigation was “chain of custody.” All devices and evidence gathered are carefully recorded, preserved, and the custody tracked. Any gap or mis-step that affected the chain of custody invalidates the evidence, and a judge will throw it out. Not only would a judge dismiss a case over a breach in chain of custody, your professional reputation as a digital forensics investigator could be ruined.

Relevance

So, what does this have to do with writing?

You must analyze a situation, scene, action in your fiction to make sure it reflects accurately any evidence, hearsay, and forensics practices you might use. Using these elements correctly, even in fiction, helps make the story more real, more believable.

Keep all this in mind, if you watch the television series, Wisdom of the Crowd. Crowdsourcing evidence is a slippery slope and violates so many of the rules of evidence, chain of custody, and promotes hearsay. So, exercise care and caution when exploring these topics.

Keep writing.