What if you could squeeze your CPE in while on hold with your cable company? Or, while you are watching your child’s soccer game? Maybe during a holiday meal that gets a little too heated? Okay, so those are extreme examples. But, the ACFE’s new nano courses do make it easy to earn CPE on even your busiest of days. Our new courses are 10-minute explorations of specific anti-fraud topics, and offer immediate, 24/7 access and NASBA-approved CPE without committing a lot of time or money.Read More
ACFE Public Information Officer
On a Thursday evening your doorbell rings. You open the door to find a 9 year-old child on your threshold who says, “Hi. I’m selling candy bars for my school. Do you want to buy one?” Would you buy one? Or would you politely decline? What if the child instead said to you, “Hello. Do you think children should be reading more?” If you respond affirmatively, they follow up with, “Do you mind buying a candy bar to support our library?” Chances are that you are much more likely to buy that candy bar after agreeing with the child that children should read because you now feel compelled to back up your previous affirmative statement. That scenario is more than a clever sales pitch for a child — it is a perfect example of the social contract compelling you to act.
In his session, “Social-Psychological Behaviors: An Underused Tool for Fraud Investigators,” Bret Hood, CFE, will share that story and more at the upcoming 2017 ACFE Law Enforcement and Government Summit in Washington, D.C., October 30. The child in question was his daughter and after slumping candy fundraising numbers, he taught her to use a two-prong question method to increase the likelihood of people buying the bars. He says that fraud examiners can use a number of psychological tactics like two-prong questioning to interview and elicit confessions from suspected fraudsters. A few other tools Hood will discuss are:
Social Contract. If you force someone into a situation where they use cognitive dissonance to lie to themselves, they are more easily exposed. He says that if you lie to a stranger, you won’t have as much trouble changing your story later, or denying what you said previously. However, if you lie to someone you know, or if you write down the lie, you’re more likely to stick to that story, no matter how outlandish it might be.
Reciprocity. Humans are naturally inclined to reciprocate what they perceive to be kind gestures from others. Hood suggests some seemingly minor tricks to use in an in-person interview with a suspect — like offering them a can of soda or a more comfortable chair. The same concept can even be applied to interviews over the phone. Starting a thought with an implication of camaraderie or collusion — like saying, “I normally don’t share this with people, but…” — can make the target of the interview feel that they must give you a piece of information equally special.
Priming. Simply softening an interrogation about embezzling to a line of questions about “misplaced” money can elicit more honest responses from suspects, or even unwitting pawns. When people feel like they are safe and understood, they’re more likely to share information. Priming your words to make them feel understood is an easy way to achieve that truth.
There are many ways that anti-fraud professionals can build a case against fraudsters, but much of the work that requests for documents, subpoenas and audits do can also be accomplished by tapping into the most basic aspects of the human psyche.
You can hear Hood speak about this topic, and hear about the latest fraud techniques unique to law enforcement and government professionals in Washington, D.C. next month. Visit ACFE.com/fraudsummit and register by September 29 to save an extra $95!
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.
Sharon Armstrong, Career Coach at the upcoming ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 12-17
Author of The Essential HR Handbook and The Essential Performance Review Handbook
“Where your talents and the needs of the world cross,” said Aristotle, “there lies your vocation.”
The interview is your opportunity to communicate the value you can add to an organization. You need to sell yourself effectively. To do that, you need to match the position requirements with your own set of skills, accomplishments and personal qualities. Know exactly what you have to offer your prospective employer. Then research, prepare and practice.
But never forget that the interview process is a two-way street. While the interviewer is checking you out to determine if you are a good fit for the job, you should be deciding if the employer is a good match for you. Which means you don’t just answer questions in an interview, you ask them, too.
Here’s some helpful information to help you plan for that all-important meeting. Customize these reminders to your own situation and use them to nail the interview and land the job:
Before the Interview:
- Visit the company website and get informed about the organization, its services and its products.
- Know something about the interviewers, if possible.
- Practice common interview questions. (Be prepared to answer ‘conflict’ type questions.)
- Be prepared to ask questions. (You’ll get high marks for any substantive question…questions about the organization, the future of the organization, your role, the value you can add, how you can work effectively with your boss, etc.)
- Bring extra copies of your résumé and reference list.
- Get a good night’s sleep.
- Dress appropriately.
- Arrive a little early.
- Be polite and professional as soon as you walk in the door.
At the Interview
- Practice direct eye contact.
- Give good ‘accomplishment’ answers.
- Be yourself.
- Be truthful.
- Stay positive.
- Demonstrate integrity.
- Smile easily and warmly.
- Ask questions.
- Show enthusiasm.
- Let the interviewer know that you’ve reviewed the organization’s website and what you learned.
After the Interview
- A follow-up letter should be sent promptly after every interview!
- Do a pros/cons list.
- Critique your performance.
- Contact your references.
An interview is the single most important hurdle in your job search. How you plan for the interview ahead of time will go a long way toward determining its outcome. The key to an effective interview is to separate yourself from the crowd by exceeding the interviewer’s expectations. Only then will you be invited to continue in the selection process and eventually receive an offer.
Try these ideas in your search and let me know how they turn out at the Career Connection at this year’s ACFE Global Fraud Conference, June 12-17, 2016.
John D. Gill, J.D., CFE
ACFE VP of Education
In the early 1980s, Dr. Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA, Chairman and founder of the ACFE, and Jim Ratley, CFE, ACFE President and CEO, began producing anti-fraud training videos. One of the signature elements of their videos was the inclusion of videotaped interviews with actual fraud perpetrators. Thirty years later, interviews with real-life fraudsters are still an important part of the ACFE’s training programs.
For the last few years, I have been fortunate to conduct many such interviews myself, and I freely admit that it is one of my favorite parts of my job. I’m always surprised that anyone is willing to sit down and talk on camera about their crimes. We do not pay them for interviews, but we have at least a few people each year who are willing to talk candidly about their mistakes.
Yogi Berra said, “If you don't know where you are going, you'll end up someplace else.” In the fraud examination field, if you don’t know who you are trying to catch, you’ll end up with someone else as your perpetrator. I’ve interviewed at least a dozen white-collar criminals, and without exception, they have all been articulate, congenial, nice and intelligent. Several were CPAs or lawyers, and one had a Ph.D. in science. Several had previously led Fortune 500 companies.
So if you think the individuals who are committing fraud in your organization are the low-level employees with little education, you don’t know where you are going.
Another thing I have learned is that the Fraud Triangle is alive and well. Every so often, someone argues that the triangle is no longer relevant or needs to be revised, but based on the interviews I’ve done over just the last four or five years, I think it’s just as relevant as it was back in Dr. Donald Cressey’s day. In case you are new to fraud examination, one of the core principles is the Fraud Triangle, which was based on research done by Dr. Cressey in the mid-1950s. The theory is that fraud is likely to occur if the subject has some kind of unshareable financial pressure, a perceived opportunity to relieve that pressure, and the ability to rationalize his or her conduct so that there is a lessening of guilt or a feeling of justification.
In every interview I have conducted, the circumstances followed the Fraud Triangle pattern. For example, Nathan Mueller, who is interviewed in this video made especially for International Fraud Awareness Week, was expecting his first child. His financial pressure was that he believed in order to adequately provide for his family, he needed extra money to pay off debts and purchase a bigger house. A year earlier, he found out he had check approval of up to $250,000, a mistake on the company’s part that provided his perceived opportunity. Nathan’s rationalization was that a check to him in the amount of $19,000 was of no consequence to a large insurance company. His department regularly processed payments in the millions of dollars, so the company would never miss the money.
We feature these fraudster interviews in our newsletters, our online courses, in our live seminars and for awareness campaigns like Fraud Week. I urge you to give them a close listen. These are the people you are trying to catch. Other than the fact that they made some bad choices with regard to doing the right thing, they are just like you and me. Watching these videos will give you some insight into who you are looking for so you know where you are going.