Fake PhD and Dr. with pen names?

by Joe Ox
58 replies
Do you use titles like PhD or Dr next to your pen names when selling ebooks?
Is it legal?

I understand that people use pen names and create a character and use a crafted photo in order to sell more. But in your character's biography can you add your "fake" degree in xyz? and then sign your articles with that title?
is that legal?
#fake #names #pen #phd
  • Profile picture of the author Tony Dean
    I think it highly dubious at best and downright fraudulent at worst. Especially if you are taking dollars off a gullible public.
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  • Profile picture of the author Joe Ox
    but what about people that creates "characters" with crafted photos for their blogs? isn't that fraudolent?
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  • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
    Banned
    Originally Posted by Joe Ox View Post

    Do you use titles like PhD or Dr next to your pen names when selling ebooks?
    Never.

    Originally Posted by Joe Ox View Post

    Is it legal?
    This forum's a very bad place to ask for or to take legal advice, for many reasons: http://www.warriorforum.com/main-int...al-advice.html .

    You'll end up with strong opinions from people who aren't qualified to give them.

    Here's my strong opinion, which I'm not qualified to give: pen-names are fine as long as they're not material in any way to the purchase process. To try to sound more authoritative by calling yourself "Dr" when you're not, to encourage people to buy, or to encourage them to believe you, is very material and in that sense probably illegal, because the intention is deceptive in a way that's directly material to the transaction.

    If you're called Jack White, it doesn't matter if your customers think you're called Bill Bloggs. That's clearly not material to whether or not they buy. But if they think you're called "Dr. Bill Bloggs" and buy something health-related on that basis, you've deceived them. That's material.

    That's my unqualified opinion.

    (It's also even more obviously immoral, unethical and just plain wrong, but of course you didn't ask that ).
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  • Profile picture of the author Deepak Media
    Originally Posted by Joe Ox View Post

    Do you use titles like PhD or Dr next to your pen names when selling ebooks?
    Is it legal?

    I understand that people use pen names and create a character and use a crafted photo in order to sell more. But in your character's biography can you add your "fake" degree in xyz? and then sign your articles with that title?
    is that legal?
    AFAIK, it is illegal to use fake degrees. Legal to use pen names and characters.
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    • Profile picture of the author ARealBiz
      Originally Posted by Deepak Media View Post

      AFAIK, it is illegal to use fake degrees. Legal to use pen names and characters.
      Agree with Deepak.
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      • Profile picture of the author bengirwb
        Reminds me of the Golden Age of paperback porn.

        Several books pretended to be case studies of bored housewives, etc. Practically all were writed by "Dr." writer.

        During the magazine pulp era after WWI, a lot of the adventure stories were written by "Captain" writer, even if he had only been a private in the war.

        Don't recall any readers complaining that they had been hoodwinked. After all, the story was fiction.
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  • Profile picture of the author theory expert
    Banned
    I am always baffled by people who aren't creative enough to sell people on the truth. You can put in your copy:

    I am a mad scientist, perpetual researcher, galactic thinker....blah blah blah

    My point is tweak your angle.
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  • Profile picture of the author retsced
    I cannot for the life of me understand why an Internet marketer in the MMO niche would use "Dr" in front of their name. As if a Doctor knows more about how to make money online than a Janitor. I see people doing this all the time and I wouldn't trust them as far as I could kick them.

    I'm not suggesting you are doing this, but if you are thinking about it, don't. It makes no sense at all. If you are thinking about doing it in the health niche, then definitely don't do it.

    Honesty will get you a whole lot further than deceit in this game. People need to trust you, and what better way to achieve this than being trustworthy.
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  • Profile picture of the author mosthost
    I.M. Fraudulent PHD
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    • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
      Look at the ads on US television. If a product shows a moderately attractive, middle aged man in a lab coat, you will also see the disclaimer "not a real doctor". Same goes for legal ads.

      There's a reason for that. It's called "misrepresentation", and transacting business based on that is called "fraud".

      You can't set up an image and allow people to mislead themselves. Why would you think you could deliberately deceive people with fake credentials.

      Outside of their fields, most self-respecting PhDs don't even use the title "Doctor" (unless they're making restaurant reservations, maybe ).

      On this one, I have to go with the anti-Nike:

      JUST DON'T DO IT!
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      • Profile picture of the author Daniel Evans
        It's illegal and it's morally incorrect.

        Ironically, though many legit practitioners don't deserve the title....


        Daniel
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        • Profile picture of the author Kay King
          When I use a pen name (and I use quite a few of them) I don't use anything except a "name".

          I don't make up a fictitious life story or fairy family or anything else - and I certainly would not make up a "degree" to impress. A pen name is one thing - a blatant lie is quite another.

          I can use any name I want - but it's a name and nothing more than that.
          The person behind the name is still....me.

          kay
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        • Profile picture of the author Stephen Marden
          Originally Posted by Daniel Evans View Post

          It's illegal and it's morally incorrect.

          Ironically, though many legit practitioners don't deserve the title....


          Daniel
          You stole my thunder on this thread

          Most doctors I know don't deserve it for sure!

          As for claiming your pen name as doctor... don't do it...its just wrong...you can sell without those type of tactics..this is just my opinion tho..worth about 2 cents
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          • Profile picture of the author Hannu
            Originally Posted by Stephen Marden View Post

            You stole my thunder on this thread

            Most doctors I know don't deserve it for sure!

            As for claiming your pen name as doctor... don't do it...its just wrong...you can sell without those type of tactics..this is just my opinion tho..worth about 2 cents
            So agree. I also know doctors who don't deserve it. Couple of years ago was at a doctor and asked about the bumps(egg size) I had on my fold of groins, and he said don't worry, they are just fat. Later another doc said right away you have groin rupture and you need an operation

            About the real issue here, I think you can use if you very clearly states it is fake, like: Sales Copy Doctor, Niche Surgeon, etc.
            But never should use them related to health or weight loss, people can misunderstand very easily because they Want to believe you are a doc and might help them.
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  • Any untrue information is fraud, period. It would seem like a good idea to instantly gain some credibility, but dishonesty is never a good idea when you get right down to it.
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      • Profile picture of the author mosthost
        Originally Posted by fin View Post

        I think it could be legal. Tweet Dr. Dre and ask him.
        He's not offering medical advice
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      • Profile picture of the author marciayudkin
        most self-respecting PhDs don't even use the title "Doctor"
        This is so true.

        More than 90% of the time, someone who adds "Doctor" or "Ph.D." after their name in the byline of a book or on their web site is someone who has a mail-order degree (like one of the starts of "The Secret" whom I will not name) or who got the degree studying at night for 10 years at a third-rank school. Those who have an Ivy League Ph.D. or one from Stanford or MIT do not flaunt it. It's no big deal to them.

        (If you want to know how I know this, I'll tell you.)

        Marcia Yudkin
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        • Profile picture of the author mosthost
          Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

          This is so true.

          More than 90% of the time, someone who adds "Doctor" or "Ph.D." after their name in the byline of a book or on their web site is someone who has a mail-order degree (like one of the starts of "The Secret" whom I will not name) or who got the degree studying at night for 10 years at a third-rank school. Those who have an Ivy League Ph.D. or one from Stanford or MIT do not flaunt it. It's no big deal to them.

          (If you want to know how I know this, I'll tell you.)

          Marcia Yudkin
          No need. I'm an expert at search "Marcia Yudkin is an excellent writer. She can turn ideas and words into money. She is a PhD and lives in Boston."
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        • Profile picture of the author Raydal
          Originally Posted by marciayudkin View Post

          This is so true.

          More than 90% of the time, someone who adds "Doctor" or "Ph.D." after their name in the byline of a book or on their web site is someone who has a mail-order degree (like one of the starts of "The Secret" whom I will not name) or who got the degree studying at night for 10 years at a third-rank school. Those who have an Ivy League Ph.D. or one from Stanford or MIT do not flaunt it. It's no big deal to them.

          (If you want to know how I know this, I'll tell you.)

          Marcia Yudkin

          Overcompensation?

          The educational business has afford many people to
          add that title before their names who have not done
          the work to deserve it.

          But you do have to ask the school along with the
          degree for the degree to have any meaning these days.

          -Ray Edwards
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          • Profile picture of the author amtr
            Originally Posted by Raydal View Post

            Overcompensation?

            The educational business has afford many people to
            add that title before their names who have not done
            the work to deserve it.

            But you do have to ask the school along with the
            degree for the degree to have any meaning these days.

            -Ray Edwards
            That's true. There's no specific law in most places against pretending to have a degree that you have not earned, or using a degree-mill diploma to enhance your reputation. I only know of one U.S. state that criminalizes it. In Oregon, it's against the law to use a fake degree, but only if you're using it to get a job.

            Some E.U. countries have stricter laws. In Spain, it's illegal to use the title "doctor" unless you are in a national database of degree-holders.
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            • Profile picture of the author bengirwb
              A pen name is a blatant lie.

              A prolific author might use several pen names.

              They are blatant lies. The reader bought a book thinking it was written by this person, instead of another person.

              There have been fiction magazines with 90% of the stories written by one person using several pen names. Readers wrote to the magazine claiming that stories by one pen name were way above stories written by another pen name.

              All blatant lies.

              Best seller Dean Koontz recounts that early in his career he wrote porn under pen names, some using a PhD pen name.

              If you create a fiction character, you are putting forth a blatant lie. Your whole novel is full of blatant lies.

              No big deal. Readers somehow know they are buying FICTION.

              I don't think any of the above is illegal. UNLESS you use a Dr. pen name in NON-FICTION where readers are expecting NON-FICTION.
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            • Profile picture of the author Joseph Robinson
              Banned
              Originally Posted by amtr View Post

              I only know of one U.S. state that criminalizes it. In Oregon, it's against the law to use a fake degree, but only if you're using it to get a job.
              Wikipedia names a few others:

              U.S. jurisdictions where the use of higher education credentials from diploma mills and unaccredited schools is explicitly illegal or legally restricted include Illinois,[14] Indiana,[14] Maine,[15] Michigan, Missouri,[16] Nevada,[14] New Jersey,[17] North Dakota,[17] Oregon,[14][17] South Dakota,[14] Texas,[18][19] Virginia,[14] and Washington.[14][20]
              They tried it here in Florida as well in '03, it was overruled.
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    • Profile picture of the author Alexa Smith
      Banned
      Originally Posted by Dragonfire Wealth View Post

      Any untrue information is fraud, period.
      Simply not so. Pen-names in themselves are not "fraud".

      Under some circumstances they can be, if they're deceptive in a way that's material to a purchase.

      This illustrates exactly why the forum's such a bad place to ask for or to offer legal advice.

      http://www.warriorforum.com/main-int...al-advice.html
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      • Profile picture of the author JasonRH
        Originally Posted by Alexa Smith View Post

        Simply not so. Pen-names in themselves are not "fraud".

        Under some circumstances they can be, if they're deceptive in a way that's material to a purchase.

        http://www.warriorforum.com/main-int...al-advice.html
        So what defines "material to purchase?"

        Let me use a fictional example:

        In the Stephen King novel The Dark Half, the character Thad Beaumont is an author with a pen-name Richard Stark. Mr. Stark's character comes with his own backstory that is night-and-day different from Mr. Beaumont.

        Would that be "material to purchase" considering that readers may be more inclined to purchase a book written by someone with Stark's "history" as opposed to Beaumont's?

        I use this example because I've toyed with the idea of creating fictional author identities for some of the fiction projects I want to keep separate from my other professional writing endeavors.
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        • Profile picture of the author Horny Devil
          Banned
          I used a pen name once . . . Parker.

          They didn't object, but Thunderbirds sued me
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    • Profile picture of the author Maui Joe
      Originally Posted by Dragonfire Wealth View Post

      Any untrue information is fraud, period.
      false.....
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  • Profile picture of the author Michael Oksa
    Originally Posted by Joe Ox View Post

    Do you use titles like PhD or Dr next to your pen names when selling ebooks?
    Is it legal?

    I understand that people use pen names and create a character and use a crafted photo in order to sell more. But in your character's biography can you add your "fake" degree in xyz? and then sign your articles with that title?
    is that legal?
    "I am not a lawyer." How often have you seen that phrase (especially here)? Even though people aren't claiming to BE lawyers, they take it a step further and make it very clear that they are NOT lawyers.

    There's a reason for that.

    I have never used fake credentials for any of my pen names, nor will I.

    The only time "fake" degrees would be okay, in my opinion, is if they were truly fake; such as "Doctor of Sales Copy". But to try to pass yourself off as being a licensed professional would be completely wrong, regardless of the legalities associated with it.

    All the best,
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  • Profile picture of the author easternodyssey
    Yes i think it depends on what you are selling. You can call your self a DR. and sell medical related products or drugs or give medical advice. You probably could also get into problems, selling products under the name DR. if you are selling academic books from Routledge or academic journals. Personally i dont see why you need to call yourself DR. or MA. why instead pass yourself of as a professional journalist, many people do that on the web. Like lets face it the amount of people, with no writing skills and no academic backgrounds, that pass themselves of as professional journalists on the web is unbelievable. Plus as I said before it does depend on what books you are selling. Anything academic orientated you face the risk you could get into trouble, while anything none academic i think people are more prone to listen to a highly qualified profession journalist than a DR. or MA.
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    • Profile picture of the author Joe Ox
      Originally Posted by easternodyssey View Post

      why instead pass yourself of as a professional journalist, many people do that on the web. Like lets face it the amount of people, with no writing skills and no academic backgrounds, that pass themselves of as professional journalists on the web is unbelievable.
      Can you say you are a professional journalist? what does make you a professional journalist? A degree in journalism? working for a newspaper? or writing articles even if it's for your own website?
      This is interesting.

      And thanks a lot everyone for the replies. This forum is great.
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  • Profile picture of the author Rose Anderson
    Perhaps you could say, "I am not a Doctor, but I play one on the internet..."

    Rose
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  • Profile picture of the author sbucciarel
    Banned
    Originally Posted by Joe Ox View Post

    Do you use titles like PhD or Dr next to your pen names when selling ebooks?
    Is it legal?

    I understand that people use pen names and create a character and use a crafted photo in order to sell more. But in your character's biography can you add your "fake" degree in xyz? and then sign your articles with that title?
    is that legal?
    I believe that impersonating a doctor or medical professional is illegal. If not, it should be. Be very careful if you are promoting health products. You can go to jail for false claims.
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  • Profile picture of the author Green Moon
    Black's Law Dictionary (5th Ed.) defines fraud as "An intentional perversion of truth for the purpose of inducing another in reliance upon it to part with some valuable thing belonging to him or to surrender a legal right."

    Faking credentials to sell an ebook is a classic example of fraud. Using a pen name, on the other hand, is not because no one is expected to take action based upon the name.

    So not every untruth is fraud, but if you use the lie to induce someone to pay you money or give up some legal right, it is fraud.
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  • Profile picture of the author marketingva
    My son is working on his Ph.D. in Materials Science. I'm watching him go through the process and I hate to think that someone would claim they did the work when they didn't. At the very least it's unethical.

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  • Profile picture of the author Walter Parrish
    Originally Posted by Joe Ox View Post

    Do you use titles like PhD or Dr next to your pen names when selling ebooks?
    Is it legal?

    I understand that people use pen names and create a character and use a crafted photo in order to sell more. But in your character's biography can you add your "fake" degree in xyz? and then sign your articles with that title?
    is that legal?
    Only if your goal is Jail Time.
    Don't do it.
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  • Profile picture of the author icoachu
    Great way to land on the FTC watch list and get fined for fraud. Also, great way to destroy your BRAND-your name!
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  • Profile picture of the author Weedy92
    Don't do that, not only is it wrong but it's bad in Character and done in poor taste. If you going to sell a product make sure it's one that's sold with honesty and a commitment to better someone elses life. I know money might play a factor for you know, but there's a point you shouldn't cross..
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  • Profile picture of the author Baadier Sydow
    I have to disagree strongly with the OP on this matter. Credibility is an important aspect of being a professional and their are no shortcuts to it. You have to earn it.
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  • Profile picture of the author Troy_Phillips
    I'm a doctor, a lawyer, a movie star. Running for president. I own this bar.
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  • Profile picture of the author Randall Magwood
    They used to call me "Dr. Magwood" at my old IT job. I was nice with it. But on my business card it said, "Randall from IT".
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    • Profile picture of the author Socialbakers
      Originally Posted by Randall Magwood View Post

      They used to call me "Dr. Magwood" at my old IT job. I was nice with it. But on my business card it said, "Randall from IT".
      Well, it's quite a difference when only your friends/colleagues call you so, because of fun in comparison with the fact when you want to publish a book with a fake degree. It's what I would call a false marketing.
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      • Profile picture of the author JohnMcCabe
        Originally Posted by PR0VIDENCE View Post

        Well: Dr. Seuss was not a real doctor - he seemed to do just fine for himself.
        You can take that for what it's worth.
        It's not worth much.

        I don't recall "Dr. Seuss" ever selling medical advice...
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        • Profile picture of the author Joseph Robinson
          Banned
          Originally Posted by JohnMcCabe View Post

          It's not worth much.

          I don't recall "Dr. Seuss" ever selling medical advice...
          I had two broken legs that would say otherwise.

          LifeProTip: Do NOT Hop on Pop
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  • Profile picture of the author PR0VIDENCE
    Banned
    Well: Dr. Seuss was not a real doctor - he seemed to do just fine for himself.
    You can take that for what it's worth.
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  • Profile picture of the author DreamWarrior
    To make a name for yourself, you need to be trustworthy. You don't want to get a bad name for yourself if you are discovered that your titles are invalid for whichever product your are promoting.

    Personally, it's not worth it.
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  • Profile picture of the author Matt Carlson
    Some marketers do that just to increase their credibility.But I don't think it is appropriate.It may not be illegal but it is certainly unethical and if by chance you are discovered to be faking it,you have ruined your reputation for life.
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  • Profile picture of the author brettb
    Stay inside the law!

    Don't think that people won't find out. The other day a payday loan company spammed my blog. Only they didn't have the correct business license to operate, so I was able to get their website taken down.
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  • Profile picture of the author centurion81
    I think it's deceptive but also kinda funny, especially in the IM niche...

    Before marketing...I was a SQL developer....but I guess that means I'll never be a good marketer because I don't have a PhD - LMAO....it's utter nonsense.

    This trend has really spiked even on here in the last year....I think it's humorous.

    Especially when you see how young some this "doctors" are...


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  • Profile picture of the author Maui Joe
    "Dr" is fine as long as you're not acting in the capacity that a real Dr in that field would operate. ie: don't call yourself a Dr and give weight loss advice.

    Ethics aside, what you call yourself is up to you and under the purview of free speech. How you ACT and conduct yourself is a different ballgame. Call yourself whatever you want, but ACT within the confines of the law.

    As for PhD, such a designation implies you have a degree, which implies a university conferred that degree. If asked about it, you'd have to lie, at which point you're conducting fraud which said university could sue for.
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  • Profile picture of the author Audrey Harvey
    I did know someone once who was selling a health related ebook and liberally signed his name with "Dr" all over the sales page. Only concern was he wasn't a medical doctor, but a doctor of religion. I felt that was a little deceptive.
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  • That's a quick way to get on the FTC's radar. Just ask a few well known Internet marketers about using Dr., Mr. X, etc. who got in trouble doing the very same thing.

    The best thing to do is to just be honest. That's really all these enforcement agencies want....People to be honest with prospective buyers. It's just not worth it.
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  • Profile picture of the author salegurus
    Let's face it, people who ask these questions are probably going to do it no matter what the response is from members.

    Also not all countries or cultures see things the same way. What we may consider to be fraud to them might be a legit way to beat the competition...
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    • Profile picture of the author amtr
      It's only acceptable if you're using a name that is clearly not purporting to be your own. This is probably best confined to fiction or humor writers. If you write medical horror and you use "John Bloodspurt, M.D." or you write steampunk fiction and use "Dr. Fantastico Smith," I wouldn't worry. But if you're writing a book on health and you use a fake M.D./MPH/Ph.D./whatever to sell it, that's a clear ethical lapse.
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  • Profile picture of the author DoomsDayDave
    Fraud has two components.

    1) Intent: Did you intentionally misrepresent in order to close a deal or gain a sale?

    2) Loss: Did your customer purchase something from you and lose money? Is there a pattern?

    This is how the American government will determine fraud.
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  • I dont care if there is a Dr. , Phd or The president of the united States.

    I look at the content and that makes me decide
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