Atlanta Fraud Prevention | Fraud Risk Assessment | CFE
Keep Fraud Alive
When conducting investigations, it never ceases to amaze me how many witnesses, vendors and business owners, who could really be helpful, respond as if a drill bit was just screwed into an open nerve. Just a few responses include:
“I don’t want to get involved” –
Add the, “I can’t help you” reply before a single question is asked. Not only is this apathy, it can raise suspicion. All this is code speak for “I won’t help you” or “I hope you’ll go away.” At times, skilled interviewing can overcome the objections. When possible, I enjoy giving assurances, confidentiality and follow up thank you notes. It’s a small way of making it easier for the next investigator.
“Will I have to testify?” –
This is a close cousin of not wanting to get involved. Testimony may not always be necessary. If it were necessary, wouldn’t you want someone to help you or your business? Yes of course you would, but if the shoe is on the other foot… not so much.
“Our attorney advises…” –
Okay I get this one and will give a pass…maybe. Perhaps there is a real chance of negligence. Slander and libel concerns could arise, so the legal eagles give strict, “no comment” guidance for inquiries. Privacy concerns abound, so erring to the side of caution in the litigious world we live in is sound advice, right? Well sometimes it’s just easier than assisting.
Suppose you’re in an industry which promotes itself through cooperation, education, professional societies, or a brotherhood of some kind and you become a fraud victim. You might be surprised when a colleague fails to assist you, or the organization to which you pay heavy annual dues won’t answer a benign question. Oh, and that same organization may quietly advise its membership, “Don’t get involved.” This ostrich approach keeps fraud alive.
In speaking with an acquaintance in a human resources department, I asked if he could verify a person’s employment. “Oh no, we can’t give out any privacy information,” he responded. I explained I didn’t want privacy information, but simply to confirm or deny employment. The human resources manager explained I would have to put in a written request, which would then be forwarded to their legal department and may take up to three weeks for a response. I almost asked if the request should be in triplicate, but politely thanked him and used a different method.
In a totally reversed situation, I was meeting with a corporate attorney for a very established company. It was related to a fraud allegation involving one of their former employees and unrelated to the company itself. The attorney had previously phoned members of management and put them on standby for our meeting. During our conversation the attorney phoned one of the managers, placed her on a speaker and we each asked a few questions. Afterwards, the attorney commented that she couldn’t understand why companies weren’t more accommodating, when clearly no liability on their part existed and the need for justice in fraud cases. My eyes became misty as I thanked the attorney, pretended I had the sniffles and excused myself.
Fraudsters tend to repeat their behavior. Many do not have previous criminal convictions. Failing to cooperate in an inquiry or not seeking prosecution advances their cause. Too often we see where fraud occurred at one organization, no action was taken and the perpetrator went on to the next victim. Understand the next victim could be you! Of course, “Don’t get involved,” if you want to keep fraud alive.