Fraudpocalypse: Introduction and Chapter One
What if fraud took over the world? A cataclysmic event foretold millennia ago by the ancients? What if saving the world was only up to a select few fraud fighters? Join Dr. Harrison "Montana" James as he is faced with a fraud apocalypse; Fraudpocalypse.
CHAPTER ONE: THE MYTH OF FRAUDPOCOLYPSE
In a quiet college town lived a professor who stood out from the rest. Dr. Harrison “Montana” James had his fair share of adventure in life. While the other professors were stuffy book worms who spent more time reading than sleeping, Monty James took to doing things. When he wasn’t teaching his students, who listened intently to every word that came from his mouth, he toured the world learning about crime. A tourist scam in Italy, corruption in Columbia, a shell company in the Seychelles. Every bit of fraud and financial crime was seen and understood by James.
It was like any other day in this sleepy college town when James entered his classroom. Placing his computer case on his desk in the center of the bland room, he sat in his chair to wait for his class to come in. Student by student, they amassed and pulled out their laptops. A few students went old school, using paper and pen. James thought to himself, my kind of people.
Once the clock hit the top of the hour it was time for the course to commence. Monty liked teaching Fraud 101 the best. It wasn’t that the course was advanced. It was a basic introduction to the topic. What he liked about it was the immediate impact it made on his students. Many were ignorant to the crimes and some, though young, had already been victimized by them.
Monty moved to the whiteboard to make some quick notes on his topic of the day. He jotted the characters with apparent passion but did not speak until he had the full thought written out.
“Now this is really clever. Instead of taking someone’s full identity, the criminal creates their own. They just make it up; that, ladies and gentlemen, is what a Synthetic Identity is.” Gazing out at the class, Monty noticed a sole hand raised. Obviously early in his lecture, it caught him off guard, but in a good way. It meant that someone was interested. “Yes?”
“Professor,” stated the student, a freshman girl who sat close to the front and had a laptop and notepad out. She stood out from the other students as being more mature. “What is your opinion on synthetic identities and the idea of ‘Fraudpocalypse’?” Monty knew the type of student who asked the question. She had read ahead; she had probably done additional research on the term and topic. If interested in a career, this was the kind of person who would make it big in a few years.
“Ah, I see that someone is reading ahead.” A few students chuckled. “Fraudpocalypse, or ‘Apokalypse aus frod.’ It is the ancient German myth that suggests the destruction of the world, the destruction of humanity, comes from a massive outbreak of fraud. To your question related to synthetic identities, I’d say there are more than enough other types of fraud to destroy our world. But it is nothing more than a myth, a tale to scare the masses.”
“But how do we know it is a myth?” The question was asked with the utmost respect. It made Monty think less of the student. Apocalypse through fraud, he thought. Come on. He was also curious on the student’s perspective.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense that the end of the world; or the end of our way of life, would take place through fraud. Why not global warming, a comet, or some plague that we can’t fend off? Do you think that it could be anything but a myth?” The student had clearly thought through this because she was quick to respond.
“If you look at the crime, everything seems to be sky rocketing. We have scams targeting the young, the old, and the vulnerable. We have completely innocent and oblivious people being defrauded. Even the government has their fair share of issues and now we have these phantom identities you call synthetic plaguing us. Seems an awful lot like the ‘myth’ of Fraudpocalypse.”
“Well…” Monty paused to recapture the group’s attention. “If there is a Fraudpocalypse or Fraudmaggedon or whatever we call it, all the better that everyone is in Fraud 101! Now, let’s get back to the lesson and discuss the components of a synthetic or ‘phantom’ identity.”
The rest of the lesson flowed quickly. Professor James became more animated throughout the lecture, answered a few questions, and went down a few rabbit holes that the students seemed to appreciate. By the end of the class the whiteboard was full of knowledge that the students, at least the good ones, had copied down.
When the kids began to exit the class, Monty began to pack up. This was his only class of the day, which would give him time to go home and read up on the latest news. He would soon be home! While his mind started to drift to the other things he would do from his house, the student who asked the question of Fraudpocalypse came up to him.
“I really liked the lesson today Professor,” she stated confidently. “Will we have more discussions on Fraudpocalypse?”
“There isn’t a ton to relay about it, but it may come up in a portion of a lesson. You are very interested in the topic, aren’t you?”
“Oh yes, you could say it is a hobby of mine,” she blushed realizing how outrageous it sounded. “What I mean to say is that I like to learn about fraud and eschatology. ‘Fraudmaggedon’ checks both of those boxes.” Monty did not know what to make of this. Both were odd hobbies, especially for someone her age.
“I can’t weigh in on the eschatological part; that would be Professor Braden. But I can definitely speak to the fraud aspect.” Then something occurred to him. “I forgot to mention; if you are interested in the details of Fraudpocalypse, read a book by a Dr. Rudolph Bonhoeffer. I don’t recall the name of the book, but you should be able to find it at one of the larger libraries that stock rare books.”
“Thank you, I will look for that Professor.” She hadn’t seemed surprised at the mention of the book. “Have a good day.” She began to walk away. Monty noticed a black tattoo on the student’s right arm. A curious and curly letter ‘F’ was engraved. It struck him as odd though he couldn’t tell why.
“Could you remind me of your name?” James asked.
“Tess…Tess Bonhoeffer.” And with that, Tess Bonhoeffer smiled and walked off, leaving James alone to pick up his things and leave. No wonder she seemed to know about that book, he thought. His conclusion was that the student was a relative of Bonhoeffer…maybe a great grandchild or niece of the fraud theorist and author.
As Monty James walked out of his classroom, his mind wandered from Tess Bonhoeffer and fraud to the plans for the day. Time was something that he held dear and always wanted to make the most of the time spent out of the classroom and his part-time fraud consultancy business, Montana Fraud Consultants.
The hallways were busy as he strode past the collegiate students. He passed by a couple arguing.
“You told me it was legit,” exclaimed the male student. His girlfriend countered.
“I found it on the internet; it should have been! It was just another way to make some money. How was I to know it was bad?”
“I was going to make $1,000 a week advertising Gargantuan Energy Fluid Drink. My car is perfect for that. Not everyone has a Ford Aspire! Now that I sent them the money to do the car wrap, that check they sent me returned. Now my bank account is overdrawn, and it is all your fault!” James, though wanting to leave, had every intention of helping this couple. The guy was being harsh on his girlfriend; he didn’t seem to want to take any responsibility that he was the one who participated in the scheme. Just as he was about to speak, the young woman stormed off, angry that her boyfriend would blame her. Seeing his mistake, the boyfriend was quick to follow after her, changing his tone. They will have to work it out on their own, James thought to himself.
Approaching his truck, James noticed old Professor Braden huffing towards him. Generally a calm and collected man, James appreciated the theology professor’s experience in the academic field. As he approached, they exchanged greetings.
“Joe,” Monty said to Professor Braden. “Why are you out of breath? Running late or something?”
“Yes, you could say that.” The professor paused. He seemed hesitant to speak and James could tell he was cautious. That wasn’t like Braden. “I was on a call with tech support for my computer. Turns out that everything was exposed. It took some time, and some money, but they were able to get everything in order. There was a mishap with the billing, but I think we got it straightened out. Funny thing was that they needed gift cards. Strange way to do business but you know how things are these days…anyway, you were leaving. Never mind.”
“Joe, that sounds like a tech support scam.”
“No no, I am sure it was on the level. The person calling was very helpful. Have a good day Montana.” And with that Professor Braden walked off. Poor guy thought James. He would have to remember to follow up with him later. He was at his truck. He opened the cab door, hoisted himself in, fastened his seatbelt, turned on the ignition, put the vehicle in drive, and began his drive home.