Have you ever had a gut feeling that something was just not right?

I have heard many people claim they have a great gut instinct and that they use it to guide their decisions. But even though trusting your own instincts is a great quality, it might not be enough to spot an experienced fraudster.

Regardless of good times or a downturn to the economy, if you are considering a joint business investment or even if you find an unexpected love interest, there may be valuable information out there that uncovers information about someone's past positive accomplishments or a pattern of arrests for fraud, physical assault or even something like a string of short-term marriages with nice divorce settlements.

When someone is practiced at deception your gut will not pick up on it, and you must make it your policy to investigate all the claims they make before getting involved with them.

Even the connotation of the word "investigation," however, can be scary. It seems to violate trust. But it is merely a fact-finding mission into a person's credibility, a discovery of their documented past behavior or performance.

Our society wants us to be moral and law-abiding citizens. Most people are and they operate their daily life in an honorable way, expecting others to do the same. Unfortunately, not everyone follows this ethos, and some might be even less prone to do the right thing in an economic downturn. Past trends in criminal behavior suggest that there could be yet another spike in illegal activity now as people lose jobs, face increased financial debt, and become more inclined to drug and alcohol abuse. Crime has also become easier with the increasing sophistication of identity theft.

There are many types of deceptions to be aware of and many different kinds of criminals with different motivations driving them. As history is said to repeat itself, so does the tendency of people to repeat their criminal behaviors, especially when they become successful at  deception and profit from their frauds.

Elizabeth Fiorillo, a licensed clinical psychologist, states that, according to U.S. Department of Justice Statistics, of the 272,111 persons released from prison in 1994, an estimated 67.5% were rearrested for a felony or serious misdemeanor within three years, 46.9% were reconvicted and 25.4% resentenced to prison for a new crime.

There are many theories that try to explain how certain behaviors are learned and why they are repeated. According to the principles of operant conditioning, an area of psychological study pioneered by B.F. Skinner and others, learning occurs through an association of rewards and punishments for any type of behavior. For example, someone who has committed a criminal activity and received positive reinforcement for it will be more likely to repeat this behavior.

Thus, the possibility of receiving a reward causes an increase in the behavior. Similarly, a punishment or an otherwise undesirable outcome may decrease or prevent the undesirable behavior.

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