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Evidence in a fraud can potentially come from a variety of sources both financial and nonfinancial. Generally speaking, the focus on fraud investigation tends to be mostly, if not solely, financial. Fraud investigators and auditors should consider the possibility of valuable evidence that is nonfinancial.
Nonfinancial sources include interviews, document examination, handwriting analysis, and physiological aspects of the fraudster. The latter refers to something the fraudster reveals in behaviours, physical expressions, or communications that can be cues as to the veracity of the fraudster's statements about his or her involvement in the fraud in question. The primary purpose of the physiological techniques and concepts presented in this unit is to detect deception. If a fraud is being perpetrated, the fraudster is certainly being as clandestine as possible including using deception in appearance and communications. Secondarily, these techniques and concepts also could be helpful in gathering useful information. From an educational background perspective, interviewing and legal aspects are taught in arts and sciences colleges, while forensic accounting is taught in business schools. Therefore, generally speaking, an accounting major has had little to no relevant education in the areas of sociology, psychology, and anthropology to assist in these techniques and tools. This unit is an introduction to some of those concepts.
Auditors ask questions in the course of most audits, whether they are internal or external. But there is a big difference in asking questions in an audit and asking questions in a fraud investigation. To ask questions effectively in a fraud investigation, one must employ best practices for interviewing techniques in that context. According to Joe Wells, founder of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), ''The best clues usually don't come from the books but from the people who work with them.'' Questions used in interviews could be (1) introductory, (2) informational, (3) closing, (4) assessment, or (5) admission-seeking. 1 Experts agree that openended questions are far superior to questions that can be answered with a
simple ''yes'' or ''no.'' One of the problems about interviews in a fraud investigation is the possibility the investigator is not trained or experienced in proper interview techniques (i.e., best practices) or worse yet, unfamiliar with the legal protocol of interviews. In the case of the latter, the case could be frustrated from a successful conclusion or even end in a counter lawsuit for some legal cause.
Although it seems intuitive that the interviewer should write down questions for the interviewee, actually the best thing to do is not write them down. Instead, the interviewer should have a list of key points and allow the conversation to take its natural course. Besides, you do not want the astute fraudster to get a peek at the questions and prepare an answer.
Steps in a Top-Notch Interview
2. Think as you go.
3. Watch nonverbal behavior.
4. Set the tone.
5. Pace your questions.
6. Do more listening than talking.
7. Be straightforward.
8. Take your time.
9. Double-check the facts.
10. Get it in writing.
Next, the interviewer should watch for nonverbal behaviour. Usually, humans have a different body language when under stress. The trained fraud investigator knows how to watch for signs of stress in a process called calibration. This process is used to assess a witness's truthfulness (most of the rest of this chapter addresses techniques that could be used in calibration).
Thirdly, the interviewer sets the tone. That includes dressing properly, using good social skills, introducing himself or herself appropriately, and especially developing a rapport with the interviewee. Next, the interviewer should pace the questions to keep the interviewee comfortable with the interviewee and the process-not too fast, not too slow, and not too long! The hard questions should follow a few easy questions and ease up to the harder ones.
Sixth, the interviewer should listen more than talk, allowing the interviewee to become stressed, if he or she is being deceptive, and eventually provide the interviewer cues of his or her deception. Besides, the more the investigator talks, the more the interviewee learns, which could be a strategic mistake for an interviewer. Next, the interviewer should be straightforward. Approach the process in an open way, and be as honest as possible without compromising the process. Trying to be too secretive or aggressive can cause the interviewer to become defensive, and that would likely lessen the effectiveness of the interview process.
Next, the interviewer needs to take his time. Honest people usually do not mind follow-up questions when the interviewer's instincts say he did not get all of the facts. Guilty people, however, typically get impatient. Another obvious step is to double-check supposed facts gathered, and start that process during the interview. Nothing damages an investigation more than having testimony contradicted by the very person who gave it. Tape recording is an option, but the downside to that tactic is the probability of losing rapport with the interviewee. Guilty persons tend to clam up or be evasive when a tape recorder is on.
The primary purpose of the interview process in a fraud investigation is to interview the suspect, last in the investigation process, and to obtain a signed confession in that interview: known as an admission-seeking interview. There is little evidence more reliable in court than a written confession signed by the perpetrator's own signature.
Perhaps no one is considered more of an expert than Dan Rabon on effective interviews. Don provides deception indicators in his books, such as dry mouth, excessive sweating, and so on that are obviously useful in an interview, and are more calibration cues.
Fraud investigators do not necessarily require legal authority to interview or inquire into fraudulent matters. If the interviewer represents herself as an investigator, however, some states do require a license for investigators. Sometimes you can actually use deception to legally gain information from a suspect, as long as the interviewer does not use deception that will likely cause an innocent party to confess. Promises of leniency, confidentiality, monetary rewards, or other advantages should be approved by an attorney first. The interviewer should also avoid any statement that could be taken as extortion (e.g., ''Either tell us the truth or we will turn you over to the IRS to investigate you for tax evasion.'').
A person's body movements usually indicate emotions he is experiencing through adapters or symptoms. Generally, the person is not aware that she is exhibiting body language at the time. The body behaviours could be certain movements, pitch of the voice, speed of talking, crossing legs or arms, or other body movements.
Some body language cues are related to anxiety or stress, and thus could be related to deception. Those cues include: speech hesitations, increase in vocal pitch, speech errors, pupil dilation, excessive blinking, hand or shoulder shrugs, and unusual or excessive touching hands or face. But body language cues are not absolutes.
Some other interesting facts about body language are: legs are farther from the brain and harder to control than other extremities, feet will point in the direction the person subconsciously wishes to go, ankle on knees is associated with stubbornness, and tilting the head is a sign of friendliness. However, body language varies depending on the individual. And there is a tendency to read body language as deceptive by people who are already suspicious. The latter would include auditors and forensic accountants using professional skepticism. Therefore body language is fraught with circumstances that cause it to be unreliable as a means to detect deception consistently, and it is inadmissible in court.
In addition to body language cues, there are other cues that are used to identify lies. A list of some areas of cues and an example of each follow:
Interpersonal interactions. Shakes head ''yes'' after the point is made, inconsistent gestures.
Emotional states. Deceitful people tend to avoid touching the person questioning them.
Verbal content. Reflects question back as the answer immediately after the question; ''did you write a check to yourself?'' ''No, I didn't write a check to myself.''
How comments are made. Disassociating people, events, and so on by replacing the pronoun-''the equipment'' versus ''my equipment.''
Psychological frames. Deceitful statements almost always omit what went wrong in describing events, except concerning delays or cancellations.
As interesting as these signs are, again, there is enough inconsistency to create problems. Yet it would be helpful if a fraud investigator at least was aware of these signs. In addition, some are the same basic cues as those used in more reliable deception detection methodologies (e.g., SCAN).
A more reliable indicator of truthfulness is eye language. Experts believe the eyes are the most communicative part of the human body. The eyes do have a language and the principles that follow are referred to as visual accessing cues (VAC). The eye movement cues and interpretations, however, are true only for right-handed persons. So have the interviewee sign something before starting any use of VAC because the cues are opposite for left-handed people; that is, you would be interpreting responses as truthful versus deceitful or vice versa!
According to experts such as Don Rabon, when interviewees are asked questions for which they need to recall something to respond, the eyes give away whether the mental process is deceptive or truthful. Here are the combinations:
Eyes to the left and up. Retrieving visual images from the past-''What colour was your first car?''
Eyes to the left toward the ear. Retrieving auditory memories, remembering a sound-''What was your ring tone on your first cell phone?''
Eyes to the left and down. Associated with internal dialogue, a direction people usually stare when talking to themselves.
Eyes to the right and up. Visually constructing images-''What would your next house look like?''
Eyes to the right toward the ear. Creating a sound-''Can you create a new song and sing it for me?''
Eyes to the right and down. Associated with feelings or kinesthetic-''Can you remember the smell of a campfire?''
Eye language principles also include aspects of blinking. Under normal circumstances, a person blinks about 20 times per minute, each blink about a fourth of a second. Under stress, a person usually blinks considerably more than normal, and typically faster than normal. Some benign circumstances lead to unusual blinking. If being filmed, or on TV, a person would blink about twice as fast as normal. But a sleep-deprived person also blinks more often.
Other eye language cues:
Gaze downward. this equates to defeat, guilt, or submission.
Raising eyebrows. Uncertainty, disbelief, surprise, or frustration.
Raising one eyebrow and head tilted back. Disdain, arrogance, or pride.
Dilation of pupils. Interest in the thing.
Too much can be made of eye language, and the use of best practices in interviews would lead to more reliable results and interpretations.
Statement analysis is a technique used to detect deceit in statements that individuals make. According to German psychologist Udo Undeutsch, supposedly the father of statement analysis, ''Statements that are the product of experience will contain characteristics that are generally absent from statements that are the product of imagination.''
Statement analysis uses a word-by-word examination of statements. It determines truthfulness by an analysis of the words rather than focusing on whether the stated facts are truthful. Subconsciously, the deceitful person reveals the conflict with which they are struggling in the way they communicate. Basically, statement analysis looks for cues that the person is trying to distance themselves from the issues or facts (e.g., the pronoun replacement cue mentioned earlier).
Some specific red flags to look for in statement analysis include special attention to ''I''; any deviation is a red flag (e.g., the person starts out referring to ''I'' and switches to ''we''). Subconsciously, deceitful people will try to distance themselves from the issues or facts. This red flag is true of possessive pronouns as well. Any change in noun usage is a red flag (e.g., ''my computer,'' to ''the computer''). The technique works on written statements, audio-recorded statements, or videotaped statements.
Another statement analysis red flag is the actual balance of a written statement. When asked to describe what happened before the event in question (e.g., a fraud), the event, and what happened after the event the way the person balances the amount of content on these three sections is an indicator of truthfulness. An honest person tends to balance equally the content of the three time frames. A deceitful person's account will be out of balance because she wants to distance herself from the bad event (wanting to be disassociated with a fraud)-specifically the middle time frame, the adverse event; the account of that middle time frame will contain substantially fewer words than the other two.
Pronoun analysis: I vs. them
Noun analysis: Joe/Susie vs. they/it
Verb analysis: past tense vs. changing tenses (will often change subconsciously
in a statement)
Extraneous information analysis: missing vs. present
Organizational analysis: chronological vs. disorganized
Handwriting analysis: (a bonus technique)
Body language deviations
Body language analysis
Scientific content analysis (SCAN) is a technique that is similar to statement analysis. Like statement analysis, SCAN does not try to look for the truthfulness of the facts but rather the reflection of deception in the way statements are made. SCAN is cross-cultural, which increases its applicability. Deceitful people tend to lie indirectly, and not tell blatant lies. The indirect lies involve hedging, omitting critical facts, feigning forgetfulness, pretending ignorance, and distancing oneself from the adverse event in the choice of words. Deceitful people are reluctant to commit themselves to deceptions, and instead use ''verbal trickeration'' to avoid making damaging statements. In order for SCAN to be effective, the analyst needs a clean truthful statement from the suspect. SCAN, like statement analysis, looks for a shift in the use of pronouns. It also looks for gaps in the narrative, which portray deception. The ''I don't remember'' phrase often is an attempt to conceal something. A change in tense also indicates a strong emotional response to the context. There are a number of other cues that experts in SCAN use. According to one expert, SCAN is as reliable as a polygraph examination. But both SCAN and polygraph are investigative tools and not legal evidence.