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Ten years ago, the only con artists we feared were the Bernie Madoffs, Frank Abagnales, Jordan Belforts, and Gerald Paynes of the world. They were larger-than-life confidence men that were practically untouchable. Today, we must navigate con artists on a daily basis, from fake Twitter bots pushing an agenda to Instagram Influencers promoting a fake lifestyle to YouTube ads promising simple steps to financial freedom. And it’s only going to get more complicated.

Video manipulation technology such as deepfakes will soon eradicate our “see it to believe it” quip. Voice replication technology such as Modulate.ai will make it extremely simple to forge a voice. But the technology is just one part of the equation. It’s the social platforms themselves, which are easily used to falsify one’s selfhood, that make con jobs easier than ever. The platforms are in need of serious checks-and-balances.

The Con Doctor.

Having worked in the healthcare industry for two years, I quickly learned the value of credentials – especially from big-name institutions. With the right credentials and a bit of ambition there was literally no stopping you.

If you look up Dr. Damian Jacob Markiewicz Sendler online, you might think he has a MD and a PhD from Harvard Medical School. He presents himself as the chief of sexology at a non-profit health research foundation based in New York. His website states he’s one of the youngest elected members of the American Psychiatric Association and the American Academy of Psychiatry and the Law, and that Barack Obama gave him a President’s Gold Service Award for his contributions in medicine and mental health.

Based on the information available online, Sendler could be one of the most accomplished 28-year-olds in medicine.

Jennings Brown, Gizmodo

Furthermore, Damian’s profile on ResearchGate.net (a professional network for scientists and researchers) contains over 45 research papers, 7,139 views, and his work has been cited 161 times. His research tends to cover taboo topics such as zoophilia and, for that reason, the stories often get picked up by larger media outlets such as Vice, Playboy, Huffington Post, Bustle, Thrive Global, Women’s Health, and Forbes, among others.

On the surface, Damian appears to be doing groundbreaking work. However, he’s a serial fabulist.

Two employees of the Harvard Medical School registrar confirmed to me that Sendler was never enrolled and never received a MD from the medical school.

A search in the New York State Office of Professions database shows that Sendler is not licensed to provide mental health services as a psychologist, psychoanalyst, or mental health counselor. But Sendler told me he is actively seeing patients in New York.

According to Sendler’s website he is the recipient of the “United States President Barack Obama’s Gold Service Award for humanitarian work.” There is no such thing as the President’s Gold Service Award.

Jennings Brown, Gizmodo

Damian, for many years, got away with a small-time con that landed him in big-time publications and helped him gain (an undisclosed) number of paying clients. Jennings Brown does a wonderful job telling the story of Damian’s deception. Ultimately, though, the story speaks to the ease at which deception occurs in the digital medium and the lack of basic checks-and-balances on some of the platforms we use to gain influence.

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LinkedIn Needs Some Help.

The one social network where we need full transparency is LinkedIn, yet, any job title you can possibly imagine is just a few keystrokes away. Want to be a CEO? Want to be the President of a Foundation? These are all within reach of anyone with an Internet connection and an imagination.

In fact, between writing the previous sentence and this one, I finished my Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from Harvard. I enrolled and graduated from the most prestigious university in less than 15 seconds. I may not have the piece of paper, but I’ve got the clout. And that’s all that matters for most occasions.

58% of employers have caught a lie on a resume.

CareerBuilder

A platform like LinkedIn could greatly benefit from implementing technology such as appii which verifies the education and work history of users, while also allowing those users to keep a CV that is trusted and constantly up to dat. Additionally, all the data is written to the blockchain, so the information cannot be tampered without being flagged.

Similarly, the education system has trouble providing college students up-to-date transcripts, especially in an age when it’s typical for a student to attend multiple institutions – both online and in-person – for their education and training. Not to mention, we’re seeing more and more MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) which is only going to further complicate matters of academic verification.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has created an open-source system that uses Blockchain to allow individuals to securely create and share official documents and sensitive data, including academic transcripts. Students who have grown up with the ability to easily share text, photos, videos and other information can now share certified records without having the authenticity of those records questioned.

Axiom

We’re all guilty of a little personal fabrication from time to time. I think it’s somewhat healthy to oversell ourselves, knowing we’re capable of rising to the occasion. But when falsified information becomes rampant and widespread, it’s important that we’re able to have some spaces on the Internet where the truth is maintained.

The reason I’m picking on LinkedIn is that it is the last social network that has the chance of being a truly credible source of personal information. We expect the other social networks to show the unrealistic side of life. However, LinkedIn can be so much more and I’d hate to see it fall into the same bucket of faux-reality as the other social networks (I’m already seeing it head that way, unfortunately).

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