Why Fraud Is So Hard to Fight

Fraud is unlikely to ever go away no matter how hard anybody tries to fight it. I’ll tell you why in just a minute.

First, check out this super cool video. Apparently, a man in the Netherlands has discovered how to fly with human “bird wings.” (It’s less than 2 minutes.)

Pretty amazing, huh?

The video you just watched has already generated an astounding number of views since it was released on March 18; total views worldwide are around 9 million to date.

But here’s the thing… a news report has just emerged in which the film creator admits that the video was part of an elaborate hoax that was eight months in the making. The article begins…

This hoax really took flight.

Dutch filmmaker and animator Floris Kaayk in collaboration with media production company Revolver fessed up to creating a “media art project” that took the world by storm in recent days — a video of inventor Jarno Smeets taking flight by flapping his arms.

It turns out the project had nothing to do with flight and everything to do with an online media experiment.

At this point, you may be wondering why in the world I showed you that video — and how it relates to fraud. But the reason is simple…

People Are Predisposed to Believe What They Want to Believe

It is a fact of life that people are predisposed to believe what they want to believe. This is why urban legends get passed around so quickly. They tap into people’s already-established beliefs and bypass critical thinking functions.

The video hoax above went viral because it taps into people’s age-old desire to believe that humans can fly unaided with bird-like wings. People wanted to believe it was true so they ignored some of the indications that the video was a fake.

Franz ReicheltEvery once in a while somebody will become so convinced of his false belief that he will go to his death to prove it.

A good example of this is Franz Reichelt, a man who became obsessed with designing a parachute for aviators that would deploy should they ever need to jump out of their aircraft.

It wasn’t necessarily that his idea was flawed. After all, we have parachutes today. But his designs were flawed.

Reichelt did not blame the failure of his prior experiments on his designs; he blamed it on the lack of a suitably high jump platform. This led him to repeatedly petition the Parisian government to conduct a test from the Eiffel Tower.

He finally got permission in 1912. He had told authorities that he was going to conduct the test using life-size dummies. But when he gained access to the tower, he decided to make the jump himself.

Reichelt had no evidence that his parachute design would work. His friends knew this and tried to convince him not to jump. Reichelt jumped anyway.

Of course, the parachute did not deploy. He died instantly on impact. The black and white video below captured Reichelt’s fatal jump.

Belief Trumps Proof

If somebody believes something strongly enough, no evidence or lack of evidence can persuade them otherwise.

This is the case when consumers insist on purchasing five-figure coaching programs and business “opportunities” even when there is little evidence to support their decision.

Why does this happen?

It’s because many people desperately want to believe they can get rich without doing anything. They desperately want to believe that they can pay another person $10,000 and, in exchange, be handed a web site that produces a six-figure income.

And this is why fraud is so hard to fight.

It’s also why fraud will never go away.

People want to believe the seductive lies about instant wealth… and there will always be unscrupulous marketers who will happily feed those consumers the lies they want to believe in.

-Ryan M. Healy

P.S. I just checked my email. My brother did not know I was writing this blog post. Yet here was his response upon learning that the bird-wing video was a hoax:

“NoooooOOoooahdghghahdh. I wanted to believe it was real so badly.”

So there ya go.

Ryan M. Healy

Ryan Healy is a financial copywriter and the author of Speed Writing for Nonfiction Writers. Since 2002, he has worked with scores of clients, including Agora Financial, Lombardi Publishing, and Contrarian Profits. He writes a popular blog about copywriting, advertising, and business growth, has been featured in publications like Feed Front magazine, and has been published on sites like WordStream.com, SmallBizClub.com, and MarketingForSuccess.com.

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