Using Social Media to Give You an Edge in Investigations


A quick search on my social media networks would tell you where I work, who my family members are, where I went to college and who my 5 year-old claims to be her “boyfriend.” Yes, social media is full of seemingly useless information like cat memes and time-lapsed cooking videos. But, what if all of those small, meaningless pieces of information added up to something bigger? According to Diana Ngo, those “crumbs” can each or all lead to that competitive edge you need when working on a fraud examination. “Social media gives me that competitive edge in investigations,” Ngo said. “It gives you a crumb that you can follow.”

Ngo is an Associate Director at Blackpeak Group, where she manages complex reputational and investigative enhanced due diligence projects. She also led the breakout session at the 28th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference titled, “Using Social Media for Investigative Purposes” where she highlighted the following ways you can use social media in your investigations:

  • Source of wealth research for on-boarding clients
  • Asset identification research for asset-seizing court orders
  • Whistleblower investigations for employees having undisclosed interests via family members
  • Investigating misrepresented personal or business relationships

According to Ngo, law enforcement uses social media for 80 percent of its investigations. While there may seem like an endless list of sites to consider, she highlighted the top areas of coverage to pay specific attention to:

  • WeChat: China’s Facebook. Best for finding sources. Pro Tip: You can use keyword searches for all public accounts.
  • Weibo: China’s Twitter. Pro Tip: Look at followers of a person and the people they follow for connections.
  • Instagram: A photo-sharing network. Fastest-growing application with most active users 18-29 years old. It is extremely popular in the Philippines and Singapore. Pro Tip: Every single photo has a timeline, so you can build timelines around posts.
  • Facebook: Members have the most active internet users. Pay close attention to the privacy settings: they are complicated and change frequently. Pro Tip: Use their strong search engine. You can search down to “men who went to the UCLA, live in New York and work at Deloitte.”
  • LinkedIn: Professional networking site. Made up of more males than females, people of higher incomes and higher education levels. Pro Tip: You can change the settings on your account to search anonymously.

Ngo reminded attendees to not solely rely on the information you find while scrolling and searching. According to Ngo, you still have to confirm everything you find because social media is managed by individuals. And those individuals, like us, want to represent themselves in the best way possible online. I mean, no one is going to post a video of themselves with piles of jewels and brag about a crime they committed, right?

The Power of Knowing, Accepting and Using Your Professional Strengths and Weaknesses


Mandy Moody, CFE
ACFE Content Manager

Do micromanagers know they are micromanagers? Are coworkers who are not replying to emails intentionally ignoring you? Does that mean they don’t like you or they don’t value your time and energy? Do people who don’t speak up in meetings not care about the topic at hand? I would guess that the answer to most of these questions is no. In reality, they are each behaving in a manner that is most comfortable for them. They are not aware that others, who have their own and different way of doing things, are not connecting or understanding them.

Jean O’Brien, executive coach, trainer and speaker, is one of the career coaches at this year’s 28th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference. In the Career Connection booth in the Exhibit Hall, she will be administering one of the most beneficial personality assessments one can take when addressing professional awareness — the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). I caught up with Jean last week and asked her to break down the importance of the MBTI and explain just how valuable it can be for career development. “The MBTI provides skills to 'talk' another’s language, and confidently step out of your comfort zone to best interact and communicate with different personalities,” she said. “Without this insight and awareness, we miss opportunities every day to build a successful business-leadership expertise.”   

What exactly is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and why is it so valuable?
The MBTI assessment is a series of questions that reveals our preference for the way we collect information, make decisions and what attitude we prefer to use as we interact with the world. An example such as, “Do you take initiative in making contact with others or do you let others initiate first contact and begin conversations?” conveys insight into the way you prefer to act, make decisions or manage conflict. This information identifies the tools you need to clearly and effectively communicate with others.

Why do you think this personality test is so beneficial for fraud examiners?
Fraud examiners have specific, specialized skills that are highly valued for observing and communicating information that may not be apparent. They prepare evidence, testify in court, interview witnesses, coordinate investigative efforts and advise businesses on ways to improve fraud detection to justify actions. The MBTI will enhance their skills in situations for career development, interviewing and networking that may be out of their comfort zones. It will help them be confident in environments that may be challenging or stressful.

Do you have a story that conveys why this exercise is so valuable?
In my experience, every MBTI situation has made a significant difference, increased awareness, provided an avenue to adapt when appropriate and to make changes for improved relationships. In one example, an organization referred a person to me for coaching who was going to be terminated if he did not become more aware, learn new skills and make adjustments necessary for his success as a valued employee. Good people were leaving because of him and behaviors had to change. He completed the MBTI assessment and we explored every detail, observing how and why his micromanagement style of telling people what to do impeded employees rather than allowing their capable knowledge, experience and expertise to be effective for the team. Through examples seen from the other person’s perspective, he began to see how he was limiting growth and success. It took patience and practice for him to observe his behaviors and the reactions of others. He worked hard, and with appropriate changes, open conversations and actions he was able to regain his leadership, confident that he and his team were preforming well. He was recognized by the company, sought out as an expert as someone who learned to combine knowledge, confidence and power to represent the organization internally and publicly.    

You can find Jean at the Career Connection Booth in the Exhibit Hall at the upcoming ACFE Global Fraud Conference in Nashville, June 18-23. She will be administering MBTI assessments and providing coaching for $50 per session. Register for a session today!

Wearables Strike Again: Deceased Woman’s FitBit Used to Solve Her Murder


Jeremy Clopton, CFE, CPA, ACDA
Director, Forensics and Valuation Services

In what seems to be a pattern in investigations, a deceased woman’s FitBit was used to help solve her alleged murder. In this situation, the data from the FitBit, as well as social media activity, was used to disprove an account of events provided by her husband.

This story illustrates how data beyond the obvious can be used in investigations of all types. The same mentality can be beneficial to fraud examiners as well. The key is to consider all the potential data points available to help in an examination. 

Let’s consider a financial statement manipulation scheme. While you may know the user ID that posted the entry, it is important you look even further for evidence of who actually posted it. Other relevant data points may include:

  • Date/time the entry was posted
  • Workstation from which the entry was posted
  • User ID typically associated with that workstation, compared to the user ID posting the entry
  • Was the user signed in remotely or in the office?
  • Who was in the office on the date/time the entry was posted (badge access records)?
  • Was there email activity or other digital activity on the workstation?
  • Who actually logged in to the workstation from which the entry was posted?

Clearly there is a lot more information than just the date, debit/credit, account number and amount. As you approach your next examination, consider the following:

  • What is the alleged scheme?
  • What other data can help me determine what happened or who was involved?
  • Are there data sources to help corroborate or refute the allegations?
  • Do the patterns of activity match our expectations?

I’m not saying a FitBit and social media will help solve your next investigation, though I am confident there is quite a bit more data out there you may find useful to your case.

You can hear Jeremy speak on how to effectively communicate complex data next week at the 28th Annual ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 18-13 in Nashville.