Identity Theft Speech at the FTC – Removing the Black Belt

How long has it been since you wore a white belt in your area of expertise?

I just had the singular honor of delivering an identity theft speech for the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C. In case you don’t understand the humorous irony, let me explain.

The FTC is the arm of the U.S. Government that is responsible for educating you and me about our rights as consumer, including how to fight identity theft. In other words, they are the original identity theft experts! Those of us who are professional identity theft speakers turn to the FTC for information, guidance and materials.

So why did they pay my fee to talk about a subject they know so much about?


Let me use a Taekwondo metaphor to explain what I mean. In many martial arts programs, one level before achieving your black belt, the Master teacher asks the candidate to again wear their white belt to signify that the student is returning to the state of a beginner. The ritual is a symbolic reminder that we only grow and evolve when we are humble enough to admit how much we don’t know. It is related to the Zen principle of viewing life through the eyes of an ever-learning child.

Speaking to the FTC was a mutual act of humility – an admission that neither of us “experts” have it totally figured out. If we did, identity theft would no longer be the fastest growing crime in America. From the FTC, I learned a great deal about the education and regulation process: where we are failing in our efforts and where we must focus our energy. From me, the FTC hopefully has a living, breathing reminder of how drastically this crime can affect a human life as well as some broader skills on how to prevent fraud inside of corporations. We shared our different perspectives, and for that, we are both closer to our goals.

Shedding the black belts of expertise that we work so hard to craft for the more vulnerable and open-minded symbols of rank isn’t easy, but neither is becoming a true black belt. You see, earning a black belt isn’t about the belt, it’s about your ability to act with integrity even when no color, no reward, is involved. In an act of cooperation, let me share the wise resources of my fellow students and teachers at the FTC:

If you are interested in having John Sileo conduct fraud training and social engineering workshops for your organization, contact him directly on 1.800.258.8076. His satisfied clients include the Department of Defense, the FDIC, Pfizer and the Federal Reserve Bank.