Interviewing Witnesses and Suspects

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Selected by Jacob Parks, J.D., CFE
ACFE Associate General Counsel

The ACFE Bookstore offers hundreds of resources including books and manuals, self-study CPE courses, the CFE Exam Prep Course, merchandise and more. In this interview, ACFE Associate General Counsel Jacob Parks, J.D., CFE, offers his suggestion on one must-have ACFE resource to help you in your fight against fraud.

What is your professional background and current role at the ACFE?
I started in the ACFE Research Department almost six years ago, where I focused on course review and development, especially with our materials involving legal issues. Since then, I moved to the role of Associate General Counsel, where my role is to provide day-to-day legal advice for staff and help ensure compliance with applicable laws.

Why would CFEs be interested in the online self-study, Interviewing Witnesses and Suspects?
This self-study course offers a step-by-step overview of interviewing witnesses and fraud suspects, which is beneficial both for those with little to no experience interviewing, as well as seasoned veterans who would like to enhance their interview style. The course focuses on improving the types of questions fraud examiners ask during an interview, how to react to different behaviors of the subject and obtaining the cooperation of the subject.

How is the information in this product useful for CFEs in their professional roles?
I think interviewing is one of the most difficult skills to master in fraud examination because there are so many ways that an interview can go poorly. Unlike some errors that can be revised, such as a typo in a report draft, the harm from mistakes made during an interview might be immediate and irreversible.

One improper question could violate the rights of the interview subject, while another poorly worded question concerning a sensitive topic might cause the subject to be less cooperative. Every interview opportunity — especially with the subject of an investigation — could be the last chance available, so it is important to enter the interview knowing what information is needed and the best ways to get it. This course lays out what the procedural and psychological obstacles are to obtaining that information, and how to maneuver around them.

Read more about Interviewing Witnesses and Suspects.

Clare Rewcastle Brown to Discuss Money-Laundering Controls Learned from 1MDB Scandal

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Sarah Hofmann
ACFE Public Information Officer

“I think this whole offshore financial structure that’s been allowed to grow like a canker … the whole thing’s got out of control,” said investigative journalist Clare Rewcastle Brown in an interview with the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). 

Rewcastle Brown founded The Sarawak Report and Radio Free Sarawak in 2010 to disseminate news that concerned the Sarawak region of Malaysia and eventually, news surrounding the emerging 1MDB (1Malaysia Development Bhd) scandal. In August 2015, a warrant for her arrest was issued by a Malaysian court for "activities detrimental to parliamentary democracy" and the "dissemination of false reports."

“I think we’re seeing a swing of the pendulum and I think 1MDB’s just kind of cropped up perhaps at the right place at the right time … governments across the world have started to realize that they’ve lost control and populations have lost patience,” she said.

Rewcastle Brown will address anti-fraud professionals from across Europe at the 2017 ACFE Fraud Conference Europe in London, March 19-21. Despite having an arrest warrant issued for her by a Malaysian court, Brown remains optimistic that corruption on a global scale can be defeated. She said, “I do think we’re seeing a lashback and 1MDB is going to be just one example of enforcement agencies hitting back.”

Despite not being able to attend the 2016 ACFE Fraud Conference Asia-Pacific last November in Singapore due to safety concerns, she is committed to speaking in-person at the conference in London. She plans to lay out the intricate timeline of the 1MDB scandal that allegedly began in 2009 and runs through present day.

1MDB is currently being investigated by Swiss, Singh and U.S. authorities. In a question-and-answer session after her prepared remarks in Singapore, Rewcastle Brown addressed what controls she thought could help prevent this type of large-scale money laundering. “I think this case is really an opportunity to hold banks and players in these actions seriously to account. And to make the actors who have broken the rules pay the penalty, seriously. [They should be] absolutely exposed, shamed and embarrassed because we need to put off future, potential situations like this arising again,” she said. “I think that’s the best we can hope to come out of this. By showing at last, that the financial regulators have teeth and that they’re catching up to the global criminal element who have been using our offshore system and far-too compliant financial organizations. If we can get ahead of them, maybe that’s the best way to deal with this particular problem.”

Find out more about the upcoming 2017 ACFE Fraud Conference Europe, and register by February 17 for early registration discounts, at FraudConference.com/Europe.

New Data Tools for Your 2017 Fraud Examinations

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Jeremy Clopton, CFE, CPA, ACDA, CIDA
Director, Big Data & Analytics, Digital Forensics
BKD, LLP | Forensics & Valuation Services

“New Year, New You” can be found everywhere from email subject lines to magazine covers to marquees at local fitness center. January is the time to begin new things. With that in mind, here are a few of the new items to consider in your next fraud examination.

First, let’s talk about some new methods to consider:

  • Advanced analytics: Rather than relying on sampling and rules-based queries alone, take your analytics to the next level. Incorporate correlation across disparate data sets, outlier detection based on multiple attributes and look for patterns across data sets that indicate anomalous activity. 
  • Text analytics: Easily one of my favorites and one of the most overlooked. There is a lot of value to be extracted from text —names, places, events, topics and even tones of communication may be extracted. These elements can help build the foundation of a case and enhance interviews and interrogations.
  • Machine learning and artificial intelligence: The more cutting-edge of the recommended approaches, machine learning and artificial intelligence are increasingly valuable in complex and large-scale investigations. These are the foundations for predictive coding, which allows you to review a large set of documents, communications or transactions in a manner that is both efficient and effective. Supervised machine learning allows you to “teach” the computer what to look for and return similar results. Whereas, unsupervised machine learning allows the computer to “teach” you what trends, patterns and anomalies exist in the data set. 

Last, here are some data sources you may not have considered in the past:

  • Communications Data: You’re likely thinking that communications data isn’t something new to consider—  you have used email, phone records, text messages and others for years. Applying text analytics and machine learning to email can help you learn about the dynamics, happenings and relationships in an organization before you interview a single individual. What’s more, leveraging tone detection may uncover the conversation about a scheme that isn’t explicitly discussed as such.
  • Internet of Things: The Internet of Things is all the rage. With robots, voice recognition technology and artificial intelligence being incorporated into more and more products, there is data being captured in places we never thought possible. For example, Amazon Echo’s Alexa was recently subpoenaed in a murder case  in Arkansas. This example shows just how much data we have surrounding us each and every day.

These are just a few of the new items for you to consider as you embark on your examinations in 2017. As the year progresses, I will include posts on each of these in the context of examinations, as they make news and describe how you can incorporate them into your approach. I will also discuss other emerging technologies that may reshape how a fraud examination is performed.