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Catch as catch can. If you’ve tried to reach me during the day in early summer and we didn’t connect, keep on trying. With temperatures in Las Vegas soaring to 120 degrees, I am sometimes more available at 2 a.m. than 2 p.m. Don’t give up, though; please. I want to hear what readers have to say, to suggest, to contribute (ideas) to upcoming issues. Our goal here is to be proactive; to make you think outside of the box. To supply trickle-down knowledge, the kind that can help us all to better understand what fraud IS … and what it ISN’T.
Being the Editor of an odd duck magazine like The John Cooke Fraud Report is challenging, rewarding, frustrating and even occasionally perplexing.
The CHALLENGES are mostly time related — I want to be in a dozen places at the same time because fraud crimes are seldom specific to a single area of expertise. I’m reminded of a long ago flight from Washington DC to Detroit when I noticed that my seat mate was reading the Wall Street Journal from cover to cover. He scanned nothing; he read everything. When we struck up a conversation, he — in a very friendly Leonard Nimoy/Spock kind of way — sucked my brain dry. His curiosity about everything was insatiable.
He asked me what college I had attended and when I told him, he said that he had done the Commencement Address for the latest graduating class. That plus his mention that he took the DC-Detroit flight at least once a week, turned on my own curiosity faucet. Who WAS this man? So when I was able to get in my own question, I asked him what profession he was in. “I’m with the University of Michigan Law School,” he said. “In what position?” I asked. “President,” he responded. “Wow,” I said with admiration, “of the law department?” “No,” he replied, “of the whole University of Michigan.”
Now I was impressed, really impressed, and I went into journalist mode with the questions. “I saw you reading the WSJ,” I noted, “and you read every single word on every single page. I never saw anybody do that before. Is there a reason? Are you really interested in every little thing?” He told me that it was part of his job to know something of everything because he resided in the Big House on campus and had a constant flow of dignitaries from all over the world as his house guests. “If I’m having dinner with the Prime Minister of England, the conversation will be very different than if I am having dinner with a rock star. I have to know something of everything and a collective grasp of how it all relates,” he explained.
That fascinating four hour chat with the “generalist of all things” (two of those hours were sitting on the runway) sparked something in me. In short, I wanted to be just like the President of U of M! I wanted to know some little bit of everything, especially of everything within the realm of my own profession.
So when I say that I want to be in a dozen places at once, it’s because being a “fraud generalist” takes a lot of work. It’s a challenge to relentlessly read about and absorb everything I can find relating to the widespread crime we call fraud. Millions of crooks, each with their little pieces, constantly outpace my quest for the whole.
It’s REWARDING because I truly believe that those of us who write and teach have made a difference. True, it may be a small drop in a very big bucket, but it’s still a drop! Remember, the more one learns, the more s/he can teach. (Remember the JCFR tag line, “Fighting Fraud Through Communication and Education.”)
FRUSTRATING? Oh, yeah. While the Internet is often our best friend, the long term affect of our extensive reliance on it is difficult to predict. My belief is that there is a cultural phenomenon taking place in the way humanity learns and stores information. With laptops, smart phones, and electronic gadgets of every description, we rely less on the acuity of our five senses and more on the aids at our disposal. We are more adept at processes outside of ourselves than the observations and sensations that need processing inside of our heads. (Apologies if I sound like a bad episode of Fringe!)
Already I see that the availability of information has become so accessible, so vast and so quickly evolving that virtually every field (medical, legal, investigative, ad infinitum) has moved toward specialization. If you are the greatest arson investigator in the world, it will not help you recognize a prevalent investment scam. If you’re a crack shot at reading medical reports and spotting all the red flags of a medical mill operation, it will not help you if you take your own car into the shop to have a bumper ding repaired and they tell you that your thingamajiggie attached to the whatdoyoucallit unit is dangerously fused, your car’s about to explode, and by the way “that will be $750, m’am.”
What I’m trying to say is that it’s absolutely in the best interest of all industries that cross education be ongoing. The old adage is, “If you don’t know it, you can’t see it.” That’s why there are magazines like JCFR out there … as a respite from Google and never going outside of your own personal line of focus.
And PERPLEXING? Why is all of this so difficult to understand? That U of M President had it RIGHT. Being an expert at one or two things does not preclude knowing a thing or two about a whole lot more. In fact, expanding our knowledge base to neighboring topics is, without exception, the best hope for our future in fraud fighting. If there is any industry that needs to think outside of the box to survive, it is the investigative industry. Why? Because the best investigators are those with the biggest pictures. And that’s exactly what we try to do; toss in tidbits of “sneak education” on all kinds of fraud. We try our best to make it interesting, enjoyable and (most of all) educational. The reason is simple. “A crook is a crook is a crook” and they rarely limit themselves to one kind of crime. Big pictures are an absolute necessity to be the best that an investigator can be. One last word, on a whole ‘nuther topic: Notice anything different? We revised the format of The John Cooke Fraud Report, changing the page count from 40 to 24 and the sizing to 63% of what it was before. Impact zero, unless you’ve got eye problems. Actually, the overall effect is that our new print size on the same 11 x 17 page allows us to get more stuff into less space but still hopefully not make you go blind. It also allows us to print more copies for less cost, continue to send bulk boxes (that can accommodate about 30% more papers in the same size box) and lessen our overall single copy mailing costs. Finally, ad space costs are more affordable for all as we get the same visual impact from a 1/3 page as we previously got from a 1/2 page. The print/paper ratio you now see is a bit more like a Time of Newsweek magazine than a Primary Reader. We think that this is a win-win as companies tighten their financial belts. You want a bulk subscription of 30 copies, 60 copies or 100 copies? We’re in a far better position now to make that happen within your budgets. Big picture, remember?
Read. Enjoy. Learn. Cross educate. Pass on to a co-worker. That’s what it’s all about. (Just like doing the hokey-pokey.) LK