A crisis of truth

Trust can take years to build, but it can be lost in a second

For years, I had a fax machine with a separate fax number. But then the junk faxes started coming in. I could use a ream of paper in a couple of months for faxes I didn’t want.

One time I took a stack of these to my local police station and spoke with a detective. I showed him sheet after sheet. They were obviously scams with 800 numbers to call.

I asked him to locate the 800 numbers and report these guys to the authorities. He looked at me like I had two heads. He said those faxes came through on their machine too!

“Faxes of obvious scams come through on the police fax machine, and you don’t do anything about them?”

“We go after real criminals.”

This was a small town, and I imagine speeding tickets were the bulk of the “real criminals.”

So, I canceled my fax number and gave the machine away. Emails and PDFs work much better anyway.

However, spam proliferated exponentially, and now many of us use spam filters.

Not to be outdone, the telemarketers started bothering us at all hours of the day and night. The problem became so bad the government implemented the Do Not Call Registry, and that worked wonders for years. Unfortunately, they seem to have stopped enforcing it, and the calls are proliferating exponentially again.

Now the criminals are getting more creative. Have you had a call from the IRS threatening to have you arrested? Of course it’s a scam, but people fall for it.

Or how about Heather at account services? Or Tracey wanting to give you a free cruise? Blocking the numbers doesn’t help much, as the numbers from which these calls originate keep changing.

Like many, I’m running out of patience. I confess I often just hang up as soon as I realize it’s a scam. I hope I don’t inadvertently hang up on a call I really want. (Suppose you’re selling legitimate products and services. Cold-calling to develop new business may be a big part of your job. How do you get through to new customers?)

It also seems a fair number of advertisements on TV and in print are dubious at best. And then there’s fake news. I read four newspapers a day on my iPhone. Two liberal and two conservative, hoping the truth lies somewhere in between, and it only takes about 20 minutes.

And, of course, many of our political and business leaders are less than truthful. How do we know who and what to believe anymore?

What we’re talking about is a crisis of truth. Although it’s always been a problem, a little more lying and stealing didn’t seem to bother many of us as it became more prolific.

There’s a marketing spin on everything. Can you believe the reports your people provide? Do you find yourself spending more and more of your time double-checking and verifying? Isn’t your job challenging enough without having to do that?

Remember when cigarette smoking was fashionable? You just couldn’t be sophisticated or taken seriously if you didn’t light up occasionally. That’s not true anymore in most circles. What happened?

Lung cancer, emphysema and other related ills proliferated, and their relationship to smoking became better understood. When we realized the danger of secondhand smoke, smokers weren’t cool anymore. They were shunned.

Insurance companies started giving discounts to employers that banned smoking in their facilities, and most workplaces became non-smoking almost overnight. We’ve gotten so used to non-smoking that many of us find the smell of a smoker offensive, especially if they’ve just had a smoke.

We need to use the same approach when it comes to lying. Years ago, when people got caught lying they were often fired on the spot. If they weren’t, their careers suffered significantly, as we wouldn’t trust them anymore. In any case, their popularity took a significant downturn. We need to get back to that.

Trust can take years to build, but it can be lost in a second, and once it’s gone, it’s tough to earn again.

We may not be able to eliminate all the scammers out there, but we have to be able to trust the people we work for, work with and those who work for us. Otherwise, we’re working too hard.

Ronald J. Bourque, a consultant and speaker from Windham, has had engagements throughout the United States, Europe and Asia. He can be reached at 603-898-1871 or RonBourque3@gmail.com.