WHAT PERCENTAGE OF your fellow Americans do you believe are honest and trustworthy? When you read various reports about the number of people gaming the system in one way or another, the percentage may raise doubt about our strength of character.

Honest people are scrupulous with regard to telling the truth; not given to swindling, lying or fraud. They are upright citizens, while trustworthy people are deserving of trust and are reliable. An old Will Rogers adage said “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It is what you do know that ain’t so.”

We’d like to believe most people are ethical and law-abiding, but hardly a day goes by when we don’t learn about how questionable methods are being used to cross the line.

There are plenty of excuses.

Here are three recent news items that show various examples of how millions of people take advantage of the system. When you think about it, the number of people who find ways to justify bad behavior make life perilous for most of us.

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig told the U.S. Senate Finance Committee that the tax gap, taxes owed, but not collected, could exceed $1 trillion a year. Rettig told senators he fears the growth of cryptocurrencies which could make it easier for tax cheaters to avoid taxes.

IRS researchers and economists looked at the top 1% of taxpayers and determined that they may be responsible for not paying about $175 billion annually of that total; largely because of pass-through entities and offshore income. That group still pays an enormous share of the total tax bill.

President Joe Biden wants tougher tax enforcement as a way to raise revenue without raising tax rates. By investing $80 billion over a decade to beef up enforcement staff, technology and information gathering, Biden has hopes of netting $700 billion of unpaid taxes.

Second, an FBI report has confirmed what we all suspected. Americans were victimized by cybercriminals at a record rate in 2020. The FBI estimated that online crooks robbed consumers of $4.2 billion, with almost half of that amount lost by people age 50-plus.

Nearly 792,000 reported cybercrimes represented a 69% jump from 2019 and you can be sure numerous victims did not report being scammed, said Paul Abbate, the FBI’s second-highest official. Blame the fact most Americans were home-bound because of the pandemic which made them easier targets.

The average dollar loss in this group was $9,484. The FBI warned everyone, especially seniors 60 and older, to be on guard and assume all unsolicited calls have the potential to be nefarious schemes by fraudsters.

Third, according to recent World Bank data, foreign-born workers sent more than $500 billion back to their countries in the developing world last year.

The United States was the largest source country for migrant remittances in 2020, at $68 billion. Most of that amount went to low- and middle-income countries, with Mexico the biggest recipient. Worldwide, India was the biggest benefactor with $83 billion followed by China with $60 billion, Mexico with $43 billion, the Philippines with $35 billion, Egypt with $30 billion and Pakistan with $26 billion.

One might wonder how many foreign-born migrants in the United States live frugally in an effort to help their families at home, then depend on relief organizations and government assistance to supplement their existence here.

The World Bank estimated global remittances will reach $553 billion in 2021, a 2.6% increase. Despite the effects of the pandemic, the flow of money fell just 1.6% from 2019’s $540 billion.

Officials believe that during the pandemic, stimulus payments, food banks, enhanced unemployment and furlough programs in the United States and Europe allowed foreign-born workers there to continue to work and send money to family members.