Vulnerability assessments, or risk assessments as many of you know them as, are the core of a counter fraud strategy as organization can find gaps and weak links in their eco-system. This is an important exercise as it will identify those doors that the fraudsters will attempt to enter. As an academic I am a firm believer in environmental criminology, which proposes that individual behavior is shaped by environmental factors. Vulnerability assessments will help to identify environmental factors that could make an organizational a vulnerable population.
On a recent trip to Malaysia, I became aware of a trending consumer scam that reminded me of how everything we do in counter fraud is about reducing vulnerabilities and furthermore avoiding being a vulnerable population. In Malaysia, a trending scheme is for a scammer to make a random call and pose as a law enforcement officer looking to collect on a debt that the consumer owes. Being that a large, or at least statistically significant, portion of our population owes some form of debt, the chances are in the scammers favor that the initial few sentences “law enforcement” and “debt” will at least gain the listeners attention. The next step is for the scammer to attempt to secure some form of personal identifiable information such as an address, date of birth, social security number etc..and also some form of payment data such as from a personal credit card or checking account.
In all other areas of criminal justice there is a strong connection between being a vulnerable party and the propensity for victimization. It is therefore extremely important for organizations to make sure they are not the weakest member of the pack. Organizations should focus on a strong counter fraud strategy that includes a mixture of approaches such as technology and analytics, showcasing a culture of zero tolerance for fraud, use of analysts and many others.
And always remember; you don’t have to outrun the bear, just outrun your friend.