Technology facilitates fraud, rewards reputation

David MoonBlog

When I was a kid, anything in the National Enquirer was assumed to be fiction and anything on the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite was granted almost gospel status. Technology now makes it possible for any teenager to produce believable video and audio evidence of Bigfoot emerging from a Martian spaceship in the middle of a Tennessee football game, taking Tim Burchett hostage, and whisking him away to the Kremlin to officiate the wedding of Taylor Swift and Donald Trump.

If you see that video, the first thing you need to do is verify the credibility of the platform on which it is presented. If it is a TikTok video from a pharmacist in Canada, I wouldn’t give it much credence. If the New York Times, Wall Street Journal or USA Today share the video, then I would begin to be concerned about Taylor Swift, even if I believe the editorial philosophy of one (or all) of those organizations is biased. All have the reputation of at least presenting factual information, even if occasionally (or even regularly) in a manner that reflects their editorial or political bias.

In an era when technology makes it increasingly simple for almost anyone to fabricate “believable evidence” of practically anything, the value of reputation will become even more important as consumers choose from where to get reliable information. If you can’t always trust your eyes, you can at least make a decision about what sources to trust.

I recently saw an image supposedly depicting 65-year-old Jamie Lee Curtis walking the red carpet at something called The Pink Party, scantily-clad only in what seemed to be Victoria’s Secrets undergarments. As a connoisseur of Ms. Curtis ‘work since her role as Ophelia opposite Dan Akroyd in 1983’s Trading Places, I spent approximately 15 seconds on The Google to confirm that that the photo was fake.

New technologies are frequently used to dupe people, either for harmless fun or for nefarious purposes.

Twice last year, I advised people that cashier’s checks they had received as part of an online transaction were almost certainly fraudulent. The physical checks appeared fully legitimate, complete with holograms and angle-sensitive watermarks. The clue that the checks were fraudulent was that neither of my friends had any personal connection to the individuals on the other side of the transactions, beyond communicating with them via Gmail accounts. Even bank tellers couldn’t tell that the checks were frauds – until they contacted the banks to verify funds.

As counterfeiting technologies become cheaper and more accessible, the value of a person’s or organization’s reputation will increase. Always check the source of your information, especially self-proclaimed “breaking news” or things that seem shocking.

David Moon is president of Moon Capital Management. A version of this piece originally appeared in the USA TODAY NETWORK.