Friday, July 04, 2008

Cringely on fraud and the net - vs. Charles Stross and the Golden Age of Fraud

Cringely refinanced online last year, but unlike most mortgage scam victims he actually read the materials ..
I, Cringely . The Pulpit . Independence Day | PBS

...From where did that number come? It certainly never came from me. Since my signature would be at the bottom of this application I wanted to make sure everything was correct, so I called the mortgage broker. For the first time we spoke. She was a very nice lady, too, and explained that number was the variable required for all the ratios to be correct so I could qualify for the loan.

"But it isn't true," I said.

"Do you want the loan or not?" she asked.


I wasn't so principled as cowardly, but maybe that doesn't matter: I did what I knew was the right thing for me, which was to walk away from the loan. But evidently a lot of other people took the other course and today are having trouble paying for their houses, which is a big part of the reason why we are in this current economic mess...

Cringely tries to connect net-based disintermediation with the general problem of deceptive products, but he manages to mention "fraud" only in passing and he never connects the phenomena with the fall of brands, reputation management, fake dog food and pithed Americans, the libertarian transformation of American culture, and the exploitation of the weak.

He does get points for mentioning eBay and PayPal, which I'm betting are hiding a very ugly can of worms, and for being old enough to remember when the net was supposed to enable transparency and informed consumers. Hoo boy, did that not work!

So, only a C+ effort today, but at least he's thinking the right thoughts.

In a related vein, Charles Stross has a project brewing on the Golden Age of Fraud, including a $242 million Nigerian 401 scam. I hope Cringely gives us a review when the Stross book is out.

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