What lie do you think a fraudster is on by the time you, the fraud examiner, is introduced to them? The first? The second? The hundredth? The truth is (no pun intended) by the time you are sitting across the table from them, they have most likely been lying to their friends, family and coworkers for a good amount of time. Unfortunately for the fraudtsers, practice does not make perfect and a fraud examiner has a wealth of tools available to spot signs of deception.
In the Sunday Pre-Conference session at the 2019 ACFE Fraud Conference Canada, Bret Hood, CFE, discussed how anti-fraud professionals can become better interviewers by not only improving their detection skills, but by promoting honesty and encouraging interviewees to tell the truth on their own.
Here are some of the techniques Hood recommended:
Be active instead of passive. Hood asked attendees, “Are you just sitting in an interview just waiting for someone to lie?” He advised asking questions you already know the answer to. “The best way to determine if someone is lying is to know the answers to the questions you are asking.”
Use a two-question approach. Hood suggested asking interviewees if they plan to tell the truth and be upfront at the beginning of an interview and not just at the end. He said you could ask, Are you an honest person?” When they answer yes, which they most likely will, you say, “So, when we get to the difficult parts I know I can count on you, right?” He said that isn’t a fail-safe tactic because people are going to lie anyways, but by doing that you are making it harder on them and making it more likely for their baseline behavior to change later.
Listen closely and focus. Hood said to let people talk; one way being with the open narrative of saying, “Tell me what happened.” No matter what, do not interrupt or interject when an interviewee is talking. He also brought up what he sees as the No. 1 deterrent in building rapport and bonding with a suspect. “What is one of the biggest barriers to interviewing today? Your cell phone,” he said. “If you are doing an interview and it buzzes, what happens? You pick it up.”
Use the reverse-order technique. Instead of asking an interviewee or witness to tell their story from beginning to end, Hood advises asking them to tell it from present day to the past and work their way backwards. He said, “It’s harder to build a lie backwards because you aren’t used to telling a story in reverse order.”
Sketch. Getting someone to draw a sketch or images of what happened can be beneficial because it is harder to make up lies and details visually. Hood said that he sometimes asks interviewees to draw a flowchart of exactly how something happened.
Hood began the session by sharing some grim statistics about our ability to detect deception. He said that when tested, the general public is about 54% right when detecting deception versus law enforcement’s score of 56%. He suggested that instead of focusing so hard on detecting deception, which is a proven challenge for us all, fraud examiners and investigators should focus more on promoting honesty and using the above techniques to get people to tell the truth.