What motivates a person to break the rules? Why do people perpetrate frauds? Is it to achieve success? Is it to gain wealth or power? Do fraudulent people operate independently? Are they encouraged by society or others? Unfortunately, good and bad people alike are capable of evil deeds, such as falsifying credit cards or even scientific results. The spectrum is wide, and it is interesting to delve beneath the surface.
One example is Harvard Professor Mark D. Hauser, the author of the upcoming book “Evilicous: Explaining Our Evolved Taste For Being Bad”, who was, ironically, found to be “solely responsible” for eight instances of scientific misconduct by an internal university investigation in August 2010. Harvard has not divulged many details, but Hauser has been found guilty of eight different accounts of scientific fraud involving fabricating reports with bogus and exaggerated data. Within the scientific community, few acts are taken as seriously.
Hauser’s story is an interesting one: To the best of public knowledge, Hauser had no accomplices in these acts. A typically well-quoted professor, Hauser refused to answer any questions concerning his research. In the end, however, a group of scientists came forward to state that Hauser had been habitually reporting false data and using his power and authority to ensure the embellished statistics were published. In a nutshell, this is a well-respected professor who turns to do just about anything to maintain his status. A plethora of researchers stated that Hauser would report false data and use his power and authority to ensure that the embellished statistics were published.
Of course, scientists aren’t the only ones creating crimes. In the credit card realm, we witness evil on a daily basis. According to the U.S. Secret Service, in fiscal 2009, fraud loss from credit card and identity theft totaled $443 million.
Consider the case of San Francisco’s Timothy Truoung, who has been sentenced to jail for duplicating a number of stolen credit cards and making illegal online purchases. In order to protect himself from getting caught, Truoung would go online and the check the status of the cards he stole. In truth, however, the cards were so well designed that store employees and card issuers that worked with cards everyday were not able to notice the difference for quite some time.
With such limited information, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes Truong a bad person—greed, necessity, mental disorder or the like. Regardless, our own court system has stated clearly that he is a “menace and a threat to society.” After all, this is not Truong’s first offence—he has been engaged in illegal activity since as early as 1992.
Maybe Truough once started out good, but—through a series of unfortunate events—was pressured into treacherous waters? Do we all have a bad streak deep down inside? It’s hard to know for sure. Perhaps all we can do, each day, is allow for a moment of deep introspection—something to check as to whether we, as individuals, are following our own moral compass.