As of April 2018, the global population is 7.6 billion and 4.2 billion of us reportedly use the internet. There are 3.3 billion active social media users, which means that 70% of people using the internet also have one or more social media accounts. This number is expected to increase to 90% in the next three years. As a fraud analytics professional, this tells me the majority of people who have access to the internet may also be trackable on social media.Read More
A recent article in The Atlantic discussed how a scientific researcher is leveraging new software to address the issue of fraud in scientific studies. Though typically I focus more on the application of analytics for occupational fraud, this article showcases how unstructured data (data that doesn’t fit nicely into a row/column or tabular format) can be used to identify red flags of fraud.Read More
In today’s world, it’s not uncommon to see headlines about a new instance of fraud many times a week. Whether it’s a new phishing scam targeting seniors or the arrest of a low-level employee embezzling small amounts from a local government office, most fraud-related issues are interesting to the public regardless of their profession. Since anti-fraud professionals are on the front line of fraud prevention and investigation, it’s also predictable that family and friends may turn to you for clarification of these fraud-related stories.Read More
Samantha M. Weeks, CFE
Financial institutions, retailers and the travel industry have made rewarding customers for brand loyalty a part of our everyday lives. From keychains to mobile apps, companies know their customers want to feel appreciated, and driving additional spend is a big bonus. According to a 2017 study performed by Colloquy, there are 3.8 billion individual loyalty memberships in the U.S. and 175 million verified loyalty memberships in Canada. We have even seen the value of these programs being priced above the core stream of revenue in both hotel and airline financial performance reviews.
As beneficial as these programs are to both organizations and customers, it’s important to understand the related fraud risks and establish continuous monitoring to ensure that your customers remain loyal. Not only is your customer lifetime value at stake, but breaking your customer’s confidence in your brand can make it difficult to gain new customers. The most common fraud perpetrated against loyalty programs is account takeover fraud. Designing effective monitoring helps reduce response times to customer alerts of fraud, and helps to identify and reverse theft before the customer contacts you. This will save you money and preserve the loyalty you’ve built with your membership.
Begin by quantifying the fraud in terms of customers impacted and the amount lost. If you make victim customers whole by replacing the stolen program currency (i.e. points or miles) be sure to include that in your valuations. Once velocity and impact can be communicated, the risk can be truly evaluated for priority and the need for further audit. Establish the pace in which these redemptions should be reviewed for fraud indicators and get ahead of the fulfillment of these redemptions. Create communications to educate your employees and customers on the need for unique passwords and make it clear that account takeover fraud is not a hack but a consequence of recycling passwords.
Continuous monitoring processes can be improved with tracking. Provide analytics to stakeholders regarding the fraud rate and impact to the company and customers. The largest value of this is in the information and the story that you can tell. If you are leaking revenue from your loyalty program and you don’t know how big the leak is, you could risk the very loyalty the program is building.
According to Accenture, 77% of loyalty program participants admit they will withdraw their loyalty more quickly than they would have three years ago and 43% of participants admitted to doing so because they lost trust in the company (e.g., weak personal data security). Also, customers will tell an average of 24 people, mainly through social media and review websites, about their negative experience. (Connexions Loyalty/lpsos survey data). By continuously monitoring your program and being proactive in fraud detection, you can ensure that your customers remain as loyal as you strive for them to be.
Kelly Todd, CFE
Managing member and member in charge of forensic investigations at Forensic Strategic Solutions
A quick glance at the barrage of headline news related to cyberattacks, the perpetual explosion of electronically stored information and the ease with which data can be moved and shared makes one thing obvious: a new frontier has emerged for businesses. In this dynamic electronic age, the scope of risk for businesses is growing — in size and complexity — at such a rate that traditional risk management measures are simply not enough. While the “new frontier” has the potential to leave unsuspecting businesses exposed to a host of new risks, it is also creating a host of opportunities for those of us fighting fraud.
Threat: The Trusted Employee
Frauds committed through the use of a computer and its network is one of the fastest growing threats for businesses. According to Ernst & Young’s 2016 Global Forensic Data Analytics Survey, nine out of nine industries rate the threat of a cyberbreach as a their top risk. While the latest news focuses on hackers and cybercriminals, there is an equally dangerous, but perhaps less obvious, threat to corporate assets. While trusted employees are moving, sharing and exposing corporate data just to do their jobs, the malicious employee or contractor with authorized access may be deliberately taking confidential information for personal gain or other nefarious reasons. Whether internal or external, the threat posed by these cybercriminals is real. Threats include the disruption of operations, the wrongful transfer of funds and the theft of intellectual property, confidential information or other critical assets.
Tools to Respond: Data Analytics
The dynamic nature of technology threats requires a proactive response. While external auditors and C-suite executives have long been reluctant to embrace advanced data analytics as a proactive tool — or even as a reactive tool — to ferret out fraud, the tide seems to be turning with the increased threat that cybercrime poses.
Advanced data analytics provide the ability to collect and analyze data, both structured (think transactional data) and unstructured (email, voicemail, internet logs, text messages, social media, blogs or free text fields in a database), to prevent, detect, monitor and investigate potentially improper transactions, events or patterns of behavior related to misconduct, fraud or noncompliance issues.
As fraud examiners, we know a picture says a thousand words — and nothing tells a story better than data. The use of data visualization tools is on the rise for business intelligence, as well as detecting patterns and relationships indicative of fraud. With the explosion of electronic data, data visualization allows for communicating key aspects of complex and voluminous data in a more intuitive way. Effective visualization — which is both an art and a science — combined with advanced data analytics helps users identify patterns and relationships.
With the increased acceptance of advanced data analytics — not to mention emerging technologies, such as blockchain (a topic that goes well beyond the scope of this blog) — dramatic opportunities abound for fraud examiners.
Valuable skills for the new frontier include:
- The technical skills to understand the information systems and how to collect relevant and reliable data.
- An expertise in data analytics to relate data from disparate systems, design queries, recognize patterns, interpret and report on results.
- Institutional knowledge or investigative skills to understand the relevant risks and controls, and to collaborate in the interpretation of results in the context of the associated risks.
As risks continue to grow in the industry, staying up-to-date with the latest tools and resources will be critical. As we look to spread knowledge during International Fraud Awareness Week, it’s also crucial that as fraud professionals we commit ourselves to continuing our education. The biggest fraud risks are the ones we are not yet aware of, but with the right tools and expertise we can be better prepared to respond.