Fantasy Fraud

Fantasy fraud is a term that refers to thinking of clever ways to obtain money without really earning it.  These fantasies include simple ways to steal or shoplift without being caught as well as complex plans to swindle people through fraud and confidence schemes.  Fantasy fraud also includes efforts to obtain assistance that one does not really deserve, such as food stamps, disability payments, workers’ compensation, and unemployment compensation.

“I often think it would be an exciting intellectual challenge to steal something just to see if I could get away with it” is one of the questions on the Applicant Review (an honesty test sold by IntegriView). Although most people disagree with this item, many admit that they fantasize about clever ways to defraud others, but they don’t see anything wrong with it; “Sure I think about it all the time but I’d never do it!”

Is fantasy fraud really a problem?  On the Applicant Review, people who admit they fantasize about clever ways of stealing receive slightly lower scores.  But is it wrong to entertain such fantasies?

A marriage counselor presented a seminar for college-age students on the way social media was contributing to something he called fantasy infidelity.  In its milder forms it consists of married individuals who use social media to create intimate friendships with members of the opposite sex other than their companions.  Some people spend several hours each day corresponding with someone other than their spouse through texting, emails, and internet postings.  In its more serious forms, people participate in a virtual world where they create fantasy surrogates who date, marry, and go on honeymoons in a virtual world.

The seminar focused on how these fantasy relationships damage marital relationships and contribute to divorce.  Many who are involved in them see no harm and think their actions are innocent as long as they simply occur “in the clouds.”  However, spouses who discover that their partners are involved in intimate conversations and lurid fantasy experiences with another person usually feel shocked and betrayed.

The counselor argued that the metaphor about the grass on the other side of the fence always looking greener was not just an idle proverb.  Fantasy experiences have the capacity to glorify and electrify an event in ways that are far beyond anything that reality can ever hope to achieve.  Slow-motion videos set to a musical background can create a fantasy experience that leaves one endlessly disappointed with reality.

Some fantasy experiences are more damaging than others. Fantasy sports, for example, may be addicting and time consuming; but some sports fans think the sacrifice in time and attention is worth the satisfaction.  Fantasy money making, however, is usually not so innocent.  People who spend many hours thinking of clever schemes to obtain money often fall prey to the get-rich-quick schemes of others or they generate their own.

As a rule of thumb, people should receive what they deserve from their labors; their pay should equal their contribution.  Consequently, get-rich-quick schemes tend to promote a mentality of getting something for nothing.  This is the basic idea that contributes to a gambling addiction and much of the unwise investing that we do.

In 44 BC, the great Roman statesman and orator, Cicero, wrote about such fantasizing in a letter to his son, Marcus (De Officiis, Book III: paragraph VIII).  While talking about people who contemplate committing crimes secretly with the expectation of getting away with them Cicero says, “For there is guilt in their very deliberation, even though they never reach the performance of the deed itself. Those actions, therefore, should not be considered at all, the mere consideration of which is itself morally wrong.”

Fantasy fraud is fundamentally inconsistent with the concept of personal accountability and responsibility.  People who have a strong work ethic believe they have a moral responsibility to have a job that contributes valuable products or services to society or their family.  Dreaming about receiving unearned wealth is an idle day dream that is essentially a waste of time.  Living off the labors of others when one is able to contribute amounts to indolence.

The most serious consequences of fantasy fraud, however, are the actual cases of fraud that they produce.  Every industry loses billions of dollars to fraud; simple dishonesty is the greatest threat to America’s economy. As a nation, we suffer greatly because of what started as simple fantasy fraud.   $

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