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Friday, August 18, 2017

When lying gets you ahead

I still feel very burned by learning that Kiva, the international microloan lender, was misleading donors for years by implying that we were picking individual recipients to loan to, when in reality our money was not going to those recipients but to others, and being repaid, or not repaid, for reasons that had nothing to do with the individual recipients we thought we were choosing.

Even after this was revealed, and presumably apologized for and changed, someone I spoke to who worked high up for Kiva did not seem to be aware of the issue. I think honesty is paramount when soliciting other people's money on behalf of poor people, especially given the history of misuse, fraud and theft in international aid.

I still assume they do far more good than harm, but I worry that when there are no consequences for this sort of fraud, we effectively incentivize those willing to engage in fraud and deception, and punish those who are not.

23AndMe is another company that has fraudulently charged customers, by billing them for subscriptions they never signed up for and which the company omitted from its confirmation emails.

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