(By Joe Koletar) Fox News reported on 3/11/15 that the Social Security Administration (SSA) here in the United States has 6.5 million files in its active database for people who are at least 111 years old.
Obviously, 99.999% of these people have been dead for years, if not decades. But, a soil so rich is ideal territory for weeds. Fox reports numerous instances of relatives continuing to receive benefits intended for the deceased and forging their signatures. Others use these “dead” Social Numbers to get tax rebates and various benefits. Some illegal immigrants simply “become” the dead person.
To use a technical term, it’s a mess.
Fraud can be a crime of commission or omission. This is not meant to imply ill-intent on the part of organizational leadership. A classic case of fraud by omission is to sell a car and not inform the buyer of prior damage. However, do organization leaders have an affirmative responsibility to clear the ground before too many weeds take root?
In the Federal Government, there is often a requirement that one avoid conflicts of interest or actions that would create the appearance of a conflict of interest. A somewhat more demanding standard.
In the A.B.C.’s of Behavioral Forensics, we explore the psychological motivations that tend to produce fraudulent behavior. Should we also consider the motivations that produce inattentive behavior, thus increasing the likelihood of fraud? The possibilities seem boundless:
• It’s just the way things are.
• The problem has been around forever, long before I got here.
• Not enough resources.
• Technology issues get in the way.
• More important issues to deal with. We’ll get to it someday.
All good things to remember when your neighbor’s weeds begin to take over your lawn, but it begs the question. Who is your “neighbor,” and where does your “backyard” begin?
All fair questions. In this case your “neighbor” is the SSA, and your “backyard” is your tax bill. Someone has to pay for all this inattention. That would be us. Is it too much to ask that large organizations, public or private, tend to some basic housekeeping? (Such matters are also common in the private sector.) When the occasional revelation, such as SSA, sees the light of day, raise hell! Get in touch with elected representatives or corporate Boards. Demand action.
It’s only your money that is at risk.
Join us for more insights into behavioral forensics (behind fraud and similar white collar crimes) from the authors of ABCs of Behavioral Forensics (Wiley, 2013): Sri Ramamoorti, Ph. D., Daven Morrison, M.D., and Joe Koletar, D.P.A., along with Vic Hartman, J.D. These distinguished experts come from the disciplines of psychology, medicine, accounting, law, and law enforcement to explain and prevent fraud. Because we are inspired to bring to light and address the fraud problems in today’s headlines, we encourage our readers to come back and revisit us regularly at BringingFreudtoFraud.com.