Whom Do You Trust?

Doing Business and Deterring Fraud in a Global e-Marketplace

By Douglas M. Watson, Ph.D., CFE

"Eye-to-eye" business deals quickly are being replaced by "I-to-I" electronic transactions. Speed and efficiency are displacing trust and verification. 

Trust is an enigma. It's a difficult social concept to understand, and yet it's one of the most significant in forging business relationships. When one segment of a partnership violates trust, the system breaks down. Trust exists in degrees and its meaning may change with context. Trust is cognitive in that each individual chooses whom to trust and under what circumstances.Throughout history, fraudsters have relied upon garnering the trust of others to execute their crimes.

In the old economy, before the emergence of online business and the electronic marketplace, one could look a prospective client in the eye - check for the blink or listen for the quiver in the voice - to determine whether or not to proceed with a deal. Sometimes, such instinctual hunches provided the needed "green light." Yet, the new online economy has - to a degree - obstructed one's ability to decipher whether or not something is trustworthy. "Eye-to-eye" business deals quickly are being replaced by "I-to-I" transactions as the Internet enables instant communication among businesses across the world. Speed and efficiency are displacing trust and verification.

More than 250 countries have joined the e-marketplace.1 With supervisory roles disengaging from traditional person-to-person interactions, management actions have become compounded by ambiguity. This trade-off of personal relationships for virtual relationships has increased the potential for fraud.2

According to the Nevada State Attorney General, the cost of cybercrime to private businesses is staggering. Consider that the average bank robber nets $2,500 per job; the average bank fraud clears $25,000; and the average computer crime reaps about $500,000. Moreover, the average loss associated with computer-related fraud is $1.9 million, and that cost continues to increase every year. Only 1 percent of computer crimes is detected and only 7 percent of the detected crimes is reported to law enforcement. Of the cases that are detected and prosecuted, only 3 percent results in jail sentences.3 It seems an understatement that committing fraud has become easier and more lucrative in the e-marketplace.

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