FCPA Compliance and Ethics Blog

November 24, 2010

5 Important Fraud Investigation Interview Tips

Ed. Note-today we host a guest post by our Canadian colleague, Lindsay Khan of I-Sight

To conduct an investigation interview, you don’t need to be Sherlock Holmes- but it wouldn’t hurt to channel your inner detective. Fraud investigation interviews are a lot of work, but can take your investigation from ho hum to awesome. A successful investigation interview isn’t just a question and answer period. Asking good questions is just a small piece of a very big puzzle. To get the most out of your fraud investigation interviews, remember these 5 important steps:

1. Set Goals

First and foremost, set a list of goals. Identifying goals helps shape investigation interviews and allows you to put things in perspective. Goals will vary with each interview, but should be based on these primary objectives:

  • Gathering the facts- how long the fraud has been going on for, who was involved, what are their roles in the company, etc.
  • Determining the merits of the complaint- is the complaint valid?
  • Complying with legal obligations.
  • Maintaining confidentiality to the greatest extent possible.
  • Preserving the reputations of individuals and company.

2. Do Your Research

During a fraud investigation, you’ll want to do some digging to find out more about the people you’re interviewing. Reviewing personnel history of the potential interviewees will help clarify relationships and potential biases. This might also help you piece together multiple person involvement in the fraud scheme.

3. Bring Evidence Into the Interview

Documents, electronic files, expense reports and other evidence should be brought into the interview for reference. In the article “Anatomy of an Interview,” by Jim Marasco of StoneBridge Business Partners, Marasco writes:

“The most efficient and productive interviews are accomplished by advanced preparation. Questions should be prepared ahead of time along with evidential material that will be introduced during the interview. Having documents at your fingertips will move things along more quickly and offer the impression that your case is organized and solid.”

4. Background Questions

When interviewing someone about suspected fraud, kick off the interview with some basic background questions to gauge the individual’s reactions. The person you are interviewing is probably going to be uncomfortable regardless of how “welcome” you try to make the interview environment. By asking them questions related to their history at the company and the responsibilities of their position, you’ll get a better idea of their reactions and natural demeanor. Some background questions worth asking in a fraud investigation interview:

  • How long have you worked for the company?
  • What is your job title?
  • What is a typical day like for you in the office? What are your responsibilities?

*Probe deeper and ask specifics about how certain tasks are carried out- you should have gone over this information yourself before the interview, but hearing it from them adds to the investigation.

5. Double Check

Sometimes the facts involved in a fraud investigation can be a bit complicated. Always ask for clarification. Repeating statements and clarifying the facts are useful tips for making sure you’ve understood the interviewee’s story. You can’t afford to misinterpret or misunderstand what an interviewee is trying to say- it’ll ruin your investigation. Re-confirm their statements throughout the investigation interview, and at the end, have them sign your notes, stating that the statements are true and understood.

Ed. Note-Lindsay Khan regularly blogs on a wide variety of issues related to the compliance and ethics arena. You can follow her at http://www.customerexpressions.com/.

1 Comment »

  1. As I am interested in everything related to investigative interviewing I also read your 5 important fraud investigaton interview tips.

    There is nothing wrong with those 5 tips. In my opinion they are correct. I would like to add 1 more tip: Have fraud interviews done by experienced investigators/interviewers. Don’t try to do this yourself, even if you are an experienced auditor.

    So if one of these 5 tips contains new information for you should consider this to be a signal not to conduct the interview yourself.

    There is normally only one chance to conduct a succesful interview and there is no second opportunity. Interviewing is a profession!

    On my website http://www.how2ask.nl you might find some interesting background information although a lot of it is in Dutch. Sorry about that.

    Comment by Gerard Overmars — January 10, 2011 @ 2:40 pm | Reply

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