Monday, September 13, 2004

Scams and the scamming scammers who send them

Treachery is again in the news: forgeries, "false intelligence," con artists. Has it ever been easier to pull a fast one? Perhaps not since Gutenberg's time, or the creation of cuneiform tablets, has there been such a broad leap in mankind's potential for mischief.

Deception also presents problems in the clinic. Every doctor knows that some patients may try to scam them - to get narcotics, or disability payments, or to get sick leave. We try to distinguish beween patients who deceive for unconscious reasons (for example, to satisfy a need to be cared for), and those who deceive for obvious personal gain (for example, for money, or to hurt political opponents.) The latter often have "antisocial traits." This does not mean they are shy, reclusive types. It means that they see absolutely nothing wrong with criminal behavior that harms others, as long as their own needs are met.

In the beginning, it infuriated me. "This patient is lying!" I wailed to my supervisor, who shrugged and advised me to accept that this will happen. We are supposed to listen for implausible statements and manipulation, and try to understand what is behind them. We try not to be swayed by them.

I don't envy the fact-checkers at CBS. They have to disentangle info from so many sources now (not the least of which are the blogs, baying like bloodhounds chasing a scent). But I think a general rule is, the more likely it seems that someone will benefit from information that they have produced, the more scrutiny should be applied.....


Blogger mike said...

I'm scratching my head wondering whether your alliterative metaphor regarding blogs "baying like bloodhounds" indicates a mild or a malignant disapproval.


8:29 PM  
Blogger mike said...

By the way, shrinkette was the nickname of my previous dry cleaner. I'm sure you've heard that before.

8:34 PM  
Blogger shrinkette said...

To the Interested Participant:

I like bloodhounds! (I'm wondering about the "shrinkette" title now. Maybe it's more appropriate for drycleaners....but most other names, like "e-shrink," were unavailable.)

8:49 PM  

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