While many industries have adopted artificial intelligence (AI), mostly in the tech sector, it’s adoption rate in financial services has been relatively slow. Even though AI is far from a pipe dream, 76% of banking CXOs agree that adopting AI will be critical to differentiate in the market, the technology tends to conjure up images of sci-fi movies, with ambitious computers replacing humans. The reality of AI is much more collaborative and effective.Read More
Alexis C. Bell, MS, CFE, PI, ACFE Regent
International Antifraud Consultant
CEO, Fraud Doctor LLC
I am often asked, “How did you get into fraud?” Though it’s more accurate to say I’m in “anti-fraud” rather than fraud, I understand the question. What made me decide to go down this path?
I am reminded of the time in my life when I was the controller for an international textile firm. By then, I had 13 years of experience in management and nowhere to advance. This was a new company for me. As I settled in, I heard staff complain that what was in the “system” never matched what was out in the warehouse. Being a bean counter where accuracy was paramount, I asked when they last performed a physical inventory. After being met with the deer-in-the-headlights look and realizing they had never done a physical inventory, I announced everyone was coming in that weekend and we were going to straighten out the inventory situation.
As the least popular person in the building that Saturday morning, it was only a matter of hours before I grasped the full situation. There was a reason things were not lining up. We launched an internal investigation and identified a fraud scheme where the warehouse manager was selling directly to clients and pocketing the cash. We even found completely full hotel rooms floor-to-ceiling with products stolen from our warehouse. In that moment, I realized two things. One, how colossally bored I had been doing “regular” accounting where nothing ever changed but the volume of paperwork. And two, how much fun I had using my accounting skills to help with the investigation. That was it. I was hooked. I made the decision to transition to forensic accounting and never looked back.
After making the jump, I found my new home at the ACFE. It was here that I learned what I needed to about how to investigate fraud. Back then, there were no degree programs. You had to learn on the job. It was my self-study with ACFE training, books and materials that gave me the foundation to quickly understand what I was seeing in the field. I created structure for an environment that at that time had none. I was a sponge for knowledge, learning everything I could get my hands on. What I learned from those materials and mentors often made the difference between being successful during the investigation and not.
Fast forward many years, and I had the honor to give back to the beloved organization that helped me so much in the early years. I served on the local chapter board as the board secretary and then later as the board president. Together, we created outreach programs for our community and shaped the courses that were beginning to arrive in academia. We helped members locate related job openings and brought in truly outstanding speakers for thought leadership in training efforts.
After the ACFE Board of Regents election last year, I attended my first board meeting at the international headquarters in Austin, Texas. I had the opportunity to finally meet the ACFE staff who I had only spoken to on the phone or emailed in the past. I am grateful for the chance to individually meet and speak with every single employee. What struck me was how happy everyone was and how much they loved their job. It was a remarkable experience to meet the people who developed, published, disseminated and advocated the very same material that helped make me successful as an investigator over the course of my career. I was amazed at how much each person understood and appreciated their contribution to making the world a safer place from fraud. It endeared me to the ACFE all the more.
Now that I have the privilege of serving on the Board of Regents for the ACFE, I have the honor of making a difference at the international level. I find that having experience in different regions in the world means I bring a unique perspective to the role of the Regent. Other members bring perspectives from industries, government, academia and insight into what the future landscape holds. The two-year term is short in consideration for all of the ideas the board has for working with the staff and moving the ACFE into the next era. We can’t possibly get it all done within that timeframe. Some of it will have to be completed by the new Board of Regents members. They will bring a fresh perspective and even more possibilities with them. Time is running out to make your selection for the incoming board members. Cash in on your right to vote and make your voice heard.
FROM THE RESOURCE GUIDE
Andi McNeal, CFE, CPA
ACFE Director of Research
Proving ROI on anti-fraud initiatives can be incredibly difficult. Measuring the amount of fraud that’s been prevented, determining whether investigations are being performed as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible, evaluating whether frauds are being detected and responded to quickly and thoroughly enough — we frequently hear our members express how challenging these types of assessments are to perform. And the effort of explaining these issues to management, who is pressing for formal metrics, can make this area even more challenging in many organizations.
But anti-fraud teams need to be held accountable, just like every other team within the organization. One of the best ways for any team to measure and report its effectiveness is to benchmark its structure and performance against industry norms. Organizations often have historical data about their own investigation teams, but lack access to similar data from other organizations that can be used for benchmarking purposes. In 2015, we released our first benchmarking report for fraud investigation teams, and the response was incredibly positive. We knew there was a need for this type of data, but we heard from so many people — both members and non-members, from all over the world, from numerous industries, from all over the organizational chart — that this was the information they had been waiting for. Two years later, we are excited to release our next edition of this members-only resource, which has been expanded from the first to include additional benchmarking angles.
Some insights from the upcoming In-House Fraud Investigation Teams: 2017 Benchmarking Report include:
If you want to learn more about how other fraud investigation teams are structured and how your investigation team measures up, you can see the full benchmarking report next month on ACFE.com. We hope this report helps support your team’s effectiveness and highlights its success to your organization’s decision-makers. And if there are benchmarking metrics or questions you’d like to see covered in future ACFE benchmarking research, send your ideas to Research@ACFE.com.
Find out more about the ACFE's latest resources, products and events in the most recent Resource Guide.
Lindsay H. Gill, CFE, Director of Forensic Technology
Forensic Strategic Solutions
News stories would lead you to believe that once an email or file is deleted, all hope is lost. Take heart — deleted data will not leave your investigation DOA. The mere absence of the information combined with other artifacts left behind can prove valuable to your investigation.
One of the latest challenges facing forensic analysts is the use of anti-forensic tools. While most frauds leave behind a digital footprint, the more technologically savvy fraudsters are now using anti-forensic tools to encrypt, delete or destroy data. Their goal, of course, is to make it more difficult to uncover the footprints of fraud.
Luckily, there are a few prevalent anti-forensic tools that can help you overcome them:
Hiding data through encryption
The encryption of data encodes it, leaving it unreadable without authorization. While organizations often deploy encryption for security measures, a fraudster may use encryption to obfuscate nefarious activity. Some encryption tools leave a signature on the digital media indicating the presence of an encrypted volume. The challenge created by encrypted data is the need for the encryption key to access the information — without it you are left with few options. But fear not, the mere existence of encryption software may be the smoking gun you need to show concealment.
Deletion of data
Deleted data is possibly the easiest form of anti-forensic activity to address. The delete key on a keyboard would be more accurate if it simply read, “hide.” When data is “deleted” the location where the data resides is merely marked as available — leaving the original data intact until it is overwritten by new data. There are many forensic analysis tools that can identify and recover deleted files or fragments of deleted files not fully overwritten. Information about the deleted files, such as the date of deletion, often proves to be a valuable artifact in an investigation.
Destruction of data
The use of data wiping software is one method a fraudster can use to make it more difficult to restore deleted data. Data wiping will overwrite the free space marked as available when the file was deleted, likely leaving it unrecoverable. The wipe can be performed on an entire disc or a specific area. The good news is that wiping software leaves a footprint that can be useful to your investigation. Review the computer’s program list for wiping tools and document the steps you take in an attempt to recover the “wiped” files. The existence of a wiping program and your efforts to recover the data may serve as evidence of the lengths a suspect went to in an attempt to conceal wrongdoing.
As fraudsters become savvier, investigators will see more sophisticated anti-forensic activity to cover the suspect’s tracks, but remember, even anti-forensic activity leaves valuable evidence.
Elenore Cox, CFE, CPA
Senior Manager-Fraud and Investigations
NBN Co Limited
Elenore Cox, CFE, CPA, has always been focused on doing what is right for society as a whole. After working on an emotional case involving retirees who fell victim to fraud, she found a home for that passion to do right by heading up fraud detection in Australia’s largest communications infrastructure project, the National Broadband Network (NBN). “I wanted to be able to work on such a large project which is extremely beneficial to Australians and future generations,” she said.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
I believe in integrity and doing the right thing all the time, even when no one is watching. I believe the people who make a conscious decision not to act with integrity and choose to commit fraud, or take part in corrupt activities when no one is watching, should be detected, investigated and (where proven and appropriate) prosecuted as a result. It is in the interests of individuals, organizations and the wider population. My passion stemmed from the underlying principle of doing the right thing, and I’m keen to ensure we prevent and minimize the risk of fraud and corruption.
What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on; one that made you feel especially proud?
In a prior role, I worked on a case which was in the media that not only affected the client, but third parties to the organization — namely retirees. They had invested significant amounts of lifetime savings into investments, superannuation and insurance products/plans through a financial planner who was employed by a subsidiary of a large banking corporation.
The financial planner had more than 1,000 clients and defrauded approximately 60 percent, amounting to around $5.7 million over the course of 10 years.
While CFEs need to remain independent, calm and neutral, this case really pushed me to my limits as peoples’ livelihoods and their lifetime of hard work in savings was deceitfully taken from them with the promise of security, gains or, at a minimum, peace of mind (i.e. the insurance component). This was one of the cases that created the hashtag #trustisnotacontrol which I frequently quote.
What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
Some of my colleagues say that I am so passionate about my job that it’s also my hobby! I think that it’s a pretty good situation to be in; to be doing something I love day to day is priceless. They say, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”
In all seriousness, though, I love to travel and explore. I love spending time with my family and friends, am passionate about music, namely guitar and saxophone, and I like to play and watch sports and be out and about.
Read Elenore's full profile in the ACFE Career Center on ACFE.com.