Corporate Espionage

It starts with a LinkedIn message…

You are a mid-career professional who is hungry and looking to grow your business. Maybe you’re a recent grad looking to expand your network. Bottom line is you’re actively searching for ways to get ahead. Then, out of thin air – a message pops up. This drive can become a vulnerability.

“Alan” says you can help him and make money.

He tells you that you are the perfect candidate for his consulting offer. You’ve got the right subject matter expertise and he is willing to pay you for it. The best part is, he says that YOU can name your price.

Then comes the pitch.

He just needs to ask a few questions first about a program for his client. You ask who the client is. “An investor” he says. “They just want to understand the product better”. Then he redirects the conversation back to the money.

If it sounds too good to be true…

This LinkedIn experience happened to me and I couldn’t wait to share it.
Background: my subject matter expertise is “finding things”. I find people, places, documents, you name it. I’ve been finding needles in stacks of needles for over a decade and I am really good at it.

After a little digging, and some pointed questions, I learned that my alarm bells were justified.

Alan was trying to give me money in exchange for information. His pitch was an attempt to leverage the human need for money to gain restricted information about a competitor’s product.

The company was performing corporate espionage, leveraging human needs.

You might be wondering what tipped me off about the message in the first place. To understand that, you need to understand the basics of how leverage works.

Leverage is like MICE. They are everywhere.

Back in the days of the OSS and then the Cold War, a mnemonic device was used to help intel officers remember the different “levers” to gain information from a target. M: money / reward; I: ideology; C: coercion; E: ego. Three of these are elements of any good sales pitch, which is why they are also used by covert operators the world over to get intelligence.

Now, back to the message.

1. Alan was offering to pay me, without knowing me or my specific knowledge.

2. Alan was willing to be flexible with my schedule.

3. Alan told me I could name my hourly rate.

These three alarms told me that whatever information his client was after was worth a lot and they were willing to bend over backwards to get it.

Remember your ABC’s.

A. Assuming nothing.

B. Believe no one.

C. Challenge everything.

When you work in intelligence, you rely on these rules every day to insure the integrity of your deliverables.

Thanks for reading! Until next time.

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