Fraud Detector

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A few years ago I got a phone call from the fraud department of the bank that supports my VISA card.

“Mr. McDonald, we’d like you to confirm a couple of expenses that were recently charged to your account.”  Whenever I hear those words, I always take a deep breath.  I wonder what grabbed their attention.  “How can I help you?” I asked.   

“Did you have lunch at Applebee’s on the northwest side of Indianapolis last Friday?”

“Yes, I did,” I answered, remembering the Southwest Chicken Salad I had ordered.

“Good,” said the nice lady from the fraud department.  “Later that same day, did you make two purchases of perfume in Barcelona, Spain?”

“Uh, wait, let me think a moment.  Definitely not.” 

Somewhere in the digital cloud there was a computer algorithm that had discerned I am an Applebee’s kind of guy, not someone likely to be buying fragrances in Europe.  I am immensely grateful that the fraud department called this issue to my attention before my wife called this issue to my attention.

We all need fraud detectors in today’s wired world.

We also need a fraud detector in our personal lives – in particular, someone who is close enough to us to say, “How can you even be thinking about doing what you’re thinking about doing?” 

We need at least one person who knows us well enough – and is brave enough – to call us out.

The leadership landscape is littered with top-drawer CEO’s, celebrated coaches, and high-profile pastors who didn’t have a such a person close enough to confront them. 

There was no one on their executive team, in their circle of friends, or in their family room who had been empowered to say, “Stop!” 

Their cataclysmic falls from grace are a continuing reminder that sometimes – perhaps far more often than we imagine – we cannot see the foolishness of our own behavior or discern the limitations of our thinking unless a trusted friend or mentor is there to tell the truth.  It may be that we will have to recruit such a person:  “Would you be willing to watch my life and speak plainly to me about what you see?”

As the writer of Proverbs 24:26 puts it:  “An honest answer is the sign of true friendship.”

VISA hates fraud because it hurts their bottom line. 

We need to despise our own moral, ethical, and spiritual phoniness because it has the capacity to damage not just our own lives, but everyone around us.

Ask God to provide you with one of life’s great treasures: a friend who’s not afraid to call “fraud.”

Just because they love you.