Saturday, October 5, 2013

Bad Argument: You have no CONCLUSIVE proof that this is a scam!

Sidney Paget: Sherlock Holmes
Sherlock Holmes, drawn by Sidney Paget
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
When discussing the legality of a potential scam, often the defender of such scheme will resort to a "demand conclusive proof", which often takes this form:
A: Acme XYZ is a scam because of ____, ____, and ____
B: That's not conclusive proof! I demand to see CONCLUSIVE proof!   
This is sometimes also known as "demand for smoking gun".

Not all crimes are solved by "smoking gun" evidence. Indeed, it was a Sherlock Holmes story that gave us the expression, and none of Sherlock Holmes' cases have a "smoking gun"... Crimes are solved MOSTLY via deduction. Demand for "smoking gun" proof of fraud is just... idiotic.

Sometimes B will even specify what s/he considers to be conclusive proof, and it may not be "smoking gun", but certain amount of circumstantial proof. However, often the type of proof demanded does not exist (yet).

For example, if the scam is a pyramid / Ponzi scheme, the demand is often "I want to see convictions! investigations!" or sometimes, "I want to see alleged victims telling me it's a scam and they've been cheated out of their money!"

Frankly that's just as idiotic. Investigations are almost always conducted in secret, and fraud victims remain ignorant that they are a victim UNTIL the day either they realized it's a scam, or the government stepped in a shut the whole scam down. Just look at Zeek Rewards... People were lined out outside their office day after day... Until one day US Secret Service showed up and changed their door locks, shutting the whole operation down and froze all related funds. Even a year later, some people can't believe they were scammed by Zeek, and rather believe government ruined a money-making opportunity.

A financial crime that had not been shut down or collapsed will have few if any visible and self-aware victims. Thus, demand for such is about as useful as demanding a sign from God (whatever his name) that the scam is indeed a scam.

Demand for such "conclusive proof" is often revised via moving goal post if circumstantial evidence can be found. In case of international pyramid schemes, demand for investigation and conviction, countered by evidence of investigation in other countries, will often shut up, or insist that they want to see investigation in their own country.

Sometimes, circumstantial evidence offered will be parried with "they did it wrong" excuse (they must be doing it wrong, we're doing it right! we're not like that!)

Also related to "you can't say it's a scam if you've never tried it!"  bad argument. (I don't need to shoot myself in the head to know it's bad for my health)

When you see this sort of logic tossed out as defense, run away. This is a clear sign that something's wrong with the business. Even if the business is innocent there is probably something wrong with the defender who uses bogus logic. However, chances there there's something wrong with the business itself that caused the defender to offer such bogus excuses because there is no "real" defense they can offer.

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