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Maximize Your Fraud Investigations: How To Think About What You’re Thinking About...Differently

August 5, 2017


Fighting fraud starts every day when I wake up. There’s not a day that goes by that I do not think about how to ruin a bad guy’s day. People ask me all the time how criminals are changing and evolving. I believe the trajectory of criminal behavior includes the pace, frequency, and severity by which bad guys can carry out their crimes.


Our ability to investigate fraud must keep up and stay ahead of the bad guys. From mobile devices to drones, from big data to the global network of computers, we all must think differently on how technology can be used for the greater good and the many ways it can been used to commit fraud or other crimes.


However, the true value of the latest technology and big data for fraud investigations is dependent on the people that manage it and value its contribution to fighting fraud. That’s right; it’s you and your team that can make the real difference with fighting fraud. So, how do you maximize all the data at your disposal for investigating fraud?


Committing fraud is a profitable business for the bad guys. But for us, fighting fraud in all of its various forms is very expensive, time consuming, difficult, and often very frustrating. Day after day, bad guys are trying to ruin our day by devising new fraud schemes and new methods to steal our merchandise, our identities, our credit card information, and company data.


Therefore, we must always have an open mind, consider every possibility, and never go after the easy or obvious solution. In other words, you should think about what you’re thinking about...differently. Here’s a great story to illustrate this point. I want you to imagine yourself long ago working at a dockyard during the Industrial Revolution in America.


Times are hard and wages are low. Dockyard workers are stealing small tools and other items from their employers in exchange to buy food for their families. Due to the large amount of thefts occurring at the dockyards, management hires policemen to stand guard and inspect workers as they exit the dockyard gates. One day, Officer Williams stops a young worker named Tommy who is walking out of the dockyard gates pushing a wheelbarrow loaded with sawdust and floor sweepings.


Officer Williams begins his inspection and starts to poke the sawdust with his baton. Tommy tells Officer Williams that there is nothing but a little sawdust and floor sweepings. The policeman inspects the contents of the wheelbarrow and finds it contains nothing but some small bits of trash, sawdust and floor sweepings from the warehouse.


Several days pass as Officer Williams stops Tommy who is again pushing a wheelbarrow containing bits of trash and sawdust. Once again, the police officer inspects the wheelbarrow and finds it contains nothing of any value.


The same thing happens over and over again until one day Officer Williams finally kicks over the wheelbarrow and yells, “I can’t stand it, I give up. I know you are stealing something Tommy, but I just don’t know what. Please, I promise not to arrest you. I just have to know, tell me what you are stealing!”


Tommy then answers with a big grin,
“Wheelbarrows, I'm stealing wheelbarrows Officer Williams.”


The story about the wheelbarrow illustrates a good point.


Are you looking for “wheelbarrows” or are you looking for “sawdust?”


Tommy is not your typical modern day criminal. However, he used his ability to leverage what was available at the time to commit theft from his organization. Remember, criminals typically do not commit crimes that exceed their abilities to carry out. The Officer, focusing on just the obvious, was fooled by Tommy’s simple distraction, friendly demeanor, and unassuming behavior.


Today, modern day criminals can use technology to remain anonymous, defeat our defensive barriers, and leap frog over long distances to commit crimes from a seat behind a computer or from a hand-held mobile device. The good guys are always under pressure to get it right every time with the resources and tools at their disposal when investigating fraud.


Don’t be fooled by the bad guys. Analyze every detail of the fraud, follow every breadcrumb of evidence, and never get stuck just looking for “sawdust.”

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