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Using Social Media to Find Fraud

June 20, 2012

Social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn can provide some important clues when searching for signs of fraud, or the fraudsters themselves.

Cynthia Hetherington, CFE, president of the Hetherington Group, discussed how such sites can provide important clues at the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners conference in Orlando, Fla.

For example, she was able to find wide discrepancies between a job applicant’s resumé and their LinkedIn profile, leading to suspicion, She also demonstrated the use of search engines and social networking sites to learn details about people from such widely differing groups as Occupy Wall Street and the CIA. Just getting an email address can provide the key to a social networking profile, from which one can easily glean facts such as friends, family members, interests, origins, current location, etc. “If I can get your email address, I can open up anything about you,” she noted. Twitter can provide clues as to one’s political beliefs and current activities.

Social media isn't the only way to pursue fraud investigations these days. At another ACFE session Tuesday, Jonathan Marks, CFE, CPA, CITP, a partner at Crowe Horwath LLP, described the behavioral and environmental elements of fraud. He likes to look at cultural risk assessments at an organization.

“I hate the phrase ‘tone at the top,’” he said. “It should be ‘tone from the top.’ It should resonate through the organization.”

If culture is lopsided, he pointed out, it fails and creates the opportunity for fraud. Signs of fraud can be hidden in plain sight. “If you walk into the accounts payable department, and it’s not messy, something’s wrong,” he said.

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