Fraud Basics

Old-school tenacity

Digital analysis and search apps are invaluable. But nuanced interviewing, with an eye to discerning audiences, can yield solid evidence.

As a former special agent with the U.S. Secret Service, I saw my fair share of fraud cases, especially while working on the Washington, D.C., Metro Area Fraud Task Force in the early 2000s. In those days, the threat of identity theft was beginning to rise, and we were in the post-9/11 era of looking for suspicious transactions that could lead to cracking down on terrorist financing.

While many of the cases I worked were interesting and resulted in federal charges and convictions in identity theft; mail, wire and bank fraud — and other financial crimes — one of my most memorable cases I worked came about in the years after I left the Secret Service.

This memorable case stands out because I solved it based on the simple investigative techniques of solid, nuanced interviewing and talking to as many people I could. In our world of digital analysis, social media, internet search engines and everything having an app, we often tend to overlook the old-school methods of detection. Armed with only a name and a former place of employment, I now had to find a woman who hadn’t been seen or heard from in years. And I had to do it in the antediluvian, pre-smartphone era.

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