Fraud Examiner: 'Interviewing is Not a Simple Yes or No Answer'


Kenneth Springer, CFE, Founder and President
Corporate Resolutions Inc. 

Author Kenneth Springer, CFE, is the founder and president of Corporate Resolutions Inc., a specialized firm that gathers intelligence and offers a variety of investigative services that helps its clients make informed business decisions. When conducting an investigation, “use your investigative skills to follow the evidence,” Springer said. “Interviewing is not a simple yes or no conversation; there are skills required to make sure the person feels comfortable in order to elicit the most honest and complete information.”

How did you become passionate about fighting fraud? 
While in college, I spoke with a family friend who was in the FBI. I became very interested and pursued it.

What steps led you from the FBI to starting your own company?
Although I enjoyed the FBI and the people I worked with, I had an opportunity to leave and get involved in managing a small investigations firm that conducted background checks and investigations for private firms. Four years later, I was running the company and decided I wanted to start my own business. I put together a business plan, got a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan and started Corporate Resolutions Inc. in August 1991.

What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since becoming a CFE?
When investigating a fraud, you cannot necessarily rely on all of the facts as initially presented by the client since they may have their own agenda. You need to be open-minded and not have a preconceived notion as to how the fraud may have happened and by whom. Use your investigative skills to follow the evidence.

I know this because a long time ago a client led me to believe that a certain employee had committed the fraud we were investigating. It turned out that the client was actually responsible. The client was eventually arrested by the FBI.

What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on — one that made you feel especially proud?
In one instance, investors backed a company that sold hardware (desktops) and during a surprise audit, found $5 million dollars missing. After two months of having forensic accountants try to figure out the fraud, we were brought in to conduct interviews and gathering facts. We quickly learned that while the auditors were there, the CFO abruptly resigned and left town (in our business we call that a clue).

We immediately began fact gathering on the previous CFO and learned he had formed a similar-sounding entity within the company, yet the CEO was unaware of it or why it was formed. He also changed company procedure so that he was the one who opened all of the company mail.

To perpetrate his scheme, he would buy 100 computers, pay for them and then return 50. When the computer company sent a refund check, he was able to take the check and deposit it into the account he had fraudulently formed — which was located at the same branch where the company did their banking. Thus, it did not raise any red flags within the company. The FBI is still looking for him.

While putting together the fidelity bond claim for the insurance company, we did a background check on the previous CFO. He was not a CPA as he had claimed and the three references he provided did not check out.

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
Spending time with family and golfing.

Read Kenneth's full member profile in the Career Center on

3 Tips for Conducting Interviews


Courtney Babin
ACFE Communications Coordinator

In the most recent Fraud Talk podcast, Jonathan Turner, CFE, CII, ACFE Regent Emeritus, speaks about his top interviewing tips. As Turner says, “Everything that you do that adds another tool to the toolbox makes you more successful.”

Here are three of Turner’s tips for fraud examiners to remember while conducting interviews:

1. Have an Open Mind
In interviewing it is important to not let your own biases get in the way of the investigation. Biases can cloud your judgement, reality and, most importantly, your investigation. A flaw with many investigations is when you ask a question with an answer in mind, warns Turner. “If you walk in with a predetermination of what they’re going to say, you’re only going to capture part of what they have to say.”

One of the earliest fraud cases that Turner worked on was for a company that had received handwritten letters with serious allegations. He was hired on retainer to see what facts in the letters, if any, were true. The letters made some outrageous claims and Turner made a mistake that many people make. “I let my bias get in the way of my investigation,” admits Turner. “I judged the letters based on their content and their style instead of giving them the credence that they really deserved.” Once the interviews began, Turner was shocked to realize that the witnesses he interviewed had seen the shocking behavior that the letters stated. “One of the things that I use in interviewing to this day is to remember that no matter how outrageous the claim or how crazy the scheme sounds at first, you always have to be open to the possibility that it’s true or is a reflection of truth.”

2. Listen
Don’t do all of the talking — provide moments of silence, pause and wait. “The No. 1 tip is listening,” says Turner. “Listen to what they’re saying, let them take you places. If people feel like they are being heard, it encourages them to speak.” By listening instead of speaking you leave the interview open for the interviewee to say something you were not expecting. “It’s astounding how many people have confessed to things that I didn’t even know they had done,” says Turner. He mentions that there is always a temptation to come into an interview and show the interviewee how much you know, all of the facts that you’ve spent time figuring out and all of the details you’ve noted. But the weakness in that is that the interviewee begins interviewing you — you are telling them what you’ve learned rather than learning any new information. “I should walk out of that interview feeling like I’ve learned everything that there was to learn and feel like the other side has learned as little as I could possibly give them,” says Turner. “I always consider my best interviews the ones where the bad guy walks away thinking, ‘I just got away with that.’”

3. Practice
Mistakes happen. Everyone, even the most skilled fraud examiners, will make mistakes. How do you minimize those mistakes? Practice, practice and more practice. Turner has two exercises that will help even the most introverted fraud examiners become interviewing professionals (if they have the guts).

Write down five things that you want to know (anything) and go into your local grocery store, walk up to a stranger and ask that person those questions. “The reason I suggest this exercise is most of what makes people nervous about interviewing is their own internal anxiety about asking the questions,” says Turner. In order to interview successfully, you have to practice asking people questions to a point where you get comfortable asking them. Why did Turner choose a grocery store for his practice site? Because “to get people to engage in a conversation with you, you will have to use your powers of persuasion.”

Ready for the next exercise? This time, time yourself and try to get someone (a stranger – in a grocery store) to talk to you for two, then four, six, eight, 10 minutes. Use this one as a listening exercise. Ask them a question, listen to their responses and let that drive you to the next question.

These exercises will allow you to develop ease when asking strangers questions while evolving your ability to think on your feet and interview effectively.

Hopefully these three pieces of information spur your interviewing skills forward. And when all else fails, “Remember that the basics work 99 percent of the time.”

Hear the complete interview with Turner at