Fraud & Corporate Crime: How To immediately Protect Your Organization Today

Fraud & Corporate Crime: How To immediately Protect Your Organization Today

Do thoughts of how to handle fraud and corporate crime prevention keep you up at night? Perhaps they should, because annual losses from these kinds of crimes in the U.S. are estimated to lie somewhere between $426 billion and $1.7 trillion annually. That’s a vast hole for businesses and organizations like yours to plug. How can your knowledge of fraud protect your business?

Things could be worse. Indeed, white collar crime prosecutions have dropped by more than half in the last decade. While it’s fair to say that a substantial number of these kinds of crimes go unreported, there is some reason for hope. Strategies to prevent and detect criminality in the workplace have come forwards in leaps and bounds—that is, for organizations that make the effort to engage in them. 

If you’re ready to put the right protections in place and finally get a good night’s sleep, then we’re here to assist. Our dedicated team of experts in corporate crime and fraud protect organizations like yours every day from hidden internal threats. So read on for top tips from the Lauth Investigations International corporate team on how to roll out a fraud and corporate crime prevention strategy that will make all the difference.

Simple Steps for Fraud and Corporate Crime Prevention

So, how would a seasoned investigator of crimes like fraud protect their organization from unseen bad actors? These are all proactive strategies that you can enact today:

Run a Solid Background Check on All Staff

We all like to think that we can read people well, but even those of us who have been trained to read body language prefer to back up or refute our hunches with documented evidence. It’s estimated that around 78% of job seekers lie during the hiring process, and while not all of those people are going to run a scam as soon as they get a foot in the door, some will probably try, so better not to give them the opportunity in the first place. A comprehensive background check drawing on the same databases used by law enforcement agencies should do the trick.

Restrict and Control Access to Assets

We all like to imagine that the people we work alongside every day would never do us dirty. The harsh truth is that employees are far more likely to steal if they have ample opportunity and research suggests a staggering 60% will do so if they think they can get away with it.

Simple ways to remove these dark temptations include tightly controlling access to both financial and inventory assets, conducting regular cheks, and requiring dual approval for all asset transfers. The minimal numbers of fingers in the pie and everyone with an eye over their shoulder goes a long way to preventing fraud, employee theft, and embezzlement.

Get Serious on Cyber Security

Physical inventory and financial assets aren’t the only things that can drift off when left unattended. Payment information, customer data, intellectual property, and internal communications can all fall into the wrong hands when cyber security remains in the dark ages. In the digital age, we all have a corporate crime prevention obligation in the virtual world as well as the physical one. 

Eliminate Site-Specific Threats

An on-site assessment of your security hardware and protocols is a vital step in eliminating any unnecessary vulnerabilities. Without the assistance of a keen pair of eyes, many organizations get sloppy about minimizing the risks of violence in the workplace or employees running riot in areas of the premises that they shouldn’t be able to access. A violence and threat assessment will examine this area of corporate crime prevention from the angles of both internal and externally-posed risk.

Get Your Corporate Culture In Hand

Those in the know about fraud protect themselves preemptively. It’s a simple truth that disgruntled or distressed employees are far more likely to turn on the hand that feeds them. A corporate culture that has hit the skids will always serve as a breeding ground for forms of employee misconduct such as malingering, time theft, bullying, harassment, and white collar crime. 

In contrast, strengthening your corporate culture is not only key to corporate crime prevention but also the best way to drive productivity, retention, and profits. In this endeavor, the best place to start is with a Corporate Culture Audit. From there, you can map a clear path towards the kind of crime-free and collaborative workplace that’ll see you sleeping like a baby. Ready to learn more? Connect with the Lauth Corporate Investigations team today

Signs of a Home Improvement Scam

Signs of a Home Improvement Scam

Adding value to one’s home is an investment many homeowners hope to make to their property. One of the most common ways to do this is by renovating the interior of the home, the exterior or both. When it comes to vetting contractors for the job, consumers must be vigilant of scammers who hope to make a quick buck off an unsuspecting home owner. That’s why consumers must know the signs of a home improvement scam when they see it.

Signs of a Home Improvement Scam

No one wants to accuse a seemingly hard-working professional of being a theif or a fraud, but caveat emptor dictates that consumers must have a reasonable amount of knowledge in order to vet potential contractors.

The Door Knock

One of the hallmarks of a home improvement scam is that the contractor will cold-knock on doors claiming that they were simply “in the area” and noticed the exterior of your home could use repairs. Reputable contractors to no blindly knock on people’s doors soliciting their services.

Sloppy Seconds

A home improvement scam is usually designed to turn a quick profit, which means low material costs. Scammers will typically tell their marks that they “just happen” to have leftover materials from a previous job. Reputable contractors or builders would order fresh materials to ensure the integrity of their work.

On the Spot

Scammers typically want there to be a quick decision regarding their services. Whether it’s just a handshake or signing on the dotted line, scammers have the disposition of a stereotypical used car salesman.

Cash Only

Scammers want the entire fee to be paid up front before any work is completed, and tend to only accept cash as payment. This is to eliminate possible paper trails that would document their grifting behavior and increase the chance of facing consequences.

Permit Please?

Being a licensed contractor makes it much easier to procure building permits for various jobs. However, when a contractor is unlicensed or uninsured, they may attempt to have the mark procure the licenses—once again to avoid accountability for any wrongdoing that will take place.

I Know a Guy

When a mark does not have the funds that are “required” for a job, a scammer may suggest that you borrow money from a lender they know personally, perhaps with the promise that they can get you a low interest rate, or the “friend rate.”

Tips for Avoiding a Home Improvement Scam

  • When vetting contractors for a home improvement job, make sure your list of candidates is comprised only of licensed and insured contractors. You can verify a contractor’s license through your state or county government, and ask that any candidate provide proof of insurance.
  • Begin building a list of potential contractors by asking your friends and neighbors for recommendations. As long as the reference comes from a source you know and trust who has utilized that contractor’s services, the proof should be in the pudding, so to speak.
  • You can also find a list of reputable contractors from your local Home Builders Association or an equivalent for your area to see if there have been any formal complaints filed against any one contractor. You can check online reviews, their Google rating, and even check with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Get multiple estimates from multiple candidates. Legitimate estimates should include the description of the work requested, materials required, a completion date, and of course a price. Though it may be tempting, going with the cheapest estimate is not always the best option. If you observe huge disparities between estimates, ask the contractor in question.
  • Read all contracts and legally binding documents carefully. Not all contracts will be the same state to state and you must make sure you read any documents in totality before signing. Make sure the contract includes
    • Contractor information: name, address, phone number, license number.
    • Estimated state and completion date
    • Detailed notes on the spoken terms of the agreement when consulting with the contractor.
    • A written statement of your right to cancel within three business days.
  • Never pay the full amount for the completed project up front.
Scammers Get Personal Information From Your Phone SIM

Scammers Get Personal Information From Your Phone SIM

Scammers Get Personal Information From Your Phone SIM

Smartphones have become such an integral part of our everyday lives that many users joke their devices have become grafted to their hands. We use them to maintain contact in our work and personal lives, correspond through email and social media, and a bulk of Americans have made the transition to conducting their banking through the use of mobile applications. As developers continue their bottomless pursuit to create an app for everything, more and more of our real, flesh-and-blood lives are being stored on our phones: personal details, account numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information that could be misused if it fell into the wrong hands. That’s why smartphone users have to educate themselves on the specifics of a scam called “SIM card swapping.”

What is SMS?

For many telephone, internet, and smart device developers, SMS (short message service) text messaging is the cornerstone of their services. As of 2010, it was the most utilized service provided by communication companies with 3.5 billion users. It became a vital tool in direct marketing campaigns and remains one of the most popular forms of communication in younger users. Because of the ubiquity of smartphones, many companies that require a two-step authentication process for their users’ security implement SMS as a secure means of accessing information. For example, you attempt to log in to your bank account, correctly entering your username and secure password. It’s not uncommon for banking apps to prompt a second form of verification, so the app tells you it will now be sending a four-digit verification code to your phone that you must enter on the app to confirm that you are who you say you are. The code is sent to your phone via SMS. Once this information is transmitted over SMS, users are often derelict in deleting that information from their devices. This is where users are vulnerable to the scam.

How SIM swap scams work

Smartphone users who have lost their phone or who have been the victim of a theft often have the ability to call their mobile provider and provide their secure information in order to have the provider remotely wipe the SIM card and have that information transferred to another phone. Thieves in search of secure information will use tools like phishing mail campaigns, posing as legitimate companies like insurance and credit card companies to get the victim to willingly hand over identifying information such as date of birth, address, and phone number. Once they have enough identifying information, they will call the victim’s mobile provider and pose as a customer. They claim they’ve lost their phone or their phone was stolen from them. Then, using the victim’s identifying information, they will request that the mobile provider remotely wipe their old SIM card and rewrite it to the SIM card in their new device. Just like that, the thief has any and all information that has ever been transmitted via SMS text. This leaves accounts, email inboxes, and secure information vulnerable to fraud. “A high proportion of banking customers now have mobile phone numbers linked with their accounts,” fraud prevention consultant, Emma Mohan-Satta, told Digital Trends, “and so this attack is becoming common in some regions where this attack was not previously so common. Unlike mobile malware, SIM fraud attacks are usually aimed at profitable victims who have been specifically targeted through successful social engineering.”

Who is vulnerable?

Anyone who uses their smartphone as part of a two-step authentication is vulnerable to a SIM card swap scam. Once the thief has their hands on your personal information, they can devastate you in minutes by performing bank transfers, rerouting mail, and making purchases in your name. If the SIM card contained any compromising information, such as lewd photos or inappropriate communication with another person, the perpetrators can use that information to blackmail a victim into paying a tidy sum in exchange for the return of the compromising data. A victim named Tina told Motherboard, “This just happened to me over the weekend. I lost service late Saturday night and assumed it was an issue with my always buggy iPhone. Then on Sunday morning my husband got a text from T-Mobile saying that a line on our phone plan had been cancelled (mine) and i soon discovered that $1200 had wired out of my bank account to someone in [redacted] with my same last name.”

While the cost to a single individual can be devastating, a sophisticated thief can do even more to topple a business like a house of cards. It’s common practice for some types of employers to issue their employees a company cell phone to facilitate business, and in this day and age, that almost certainly means a smart phone. Correspondence between coworkers, appointments, account numbers, and sensitive company information can be exposed and exploited for gain. Companies that carry high financial sums in their accounts can be ruined before they even realize there’s a problem.

How to protect yourself

Dependence on smart phones to facilitate two-step authentication plagues many users throughout the country who enjoy the convenience of verifying their identity through SMS. Luckily, tech sites like Motherboard recommend a few ways you can protect your identity and your monies.

Beef up account security

Many major cell phone service providers are developing new methods of two-step authentication in light of the rise of SIM card swap scams. Many offer their customers the option to set up a secure PIN for their account, completely separate from the login information used to access their account. The PIN is used as a primary verification feature specifically for when customers call into the support center for SIM card-related issues. Previously, many providers opted for a security question for this type of authentication, but the answers to these security questions can often be found on a victim’s social media, such as, “Which high school did you attend?” This way, the PIN is never transmitted through SMS text messaging, and no personal information from a social media profile can be used against them.

Don’t link your number to your online accounts

Once a thief has access to your account, they can easily reset your password and other authentication methods, making it very difficult to quash the problem. Instead of linking your mobile cell phone to your accounts, you can choose a different sort of number, such as a Google Voice number.

Many individuals and companies bypass security measures for a number of reasons, such as lack of time, interest, or the mere belief that they could never be the victim of a SIM card swapping scam. The reality is that it can happen to anyone, and there’s no shortage of victims for scammers. Users who practice their due-diligence can build a security to block them out. When the scammer hits this wall, they simply move on to the next target. Educate yourself and ensure that target isn’t you.

Carie McMichael is the Communication and Media Specialist for Lauth Investigations International. For more information on investigation topics, missing persons, and corporate solutions, please visit our website.




ShutDown: Consumer Fraud Investigations Halted

ShutDown: Consumer Fraud Investigations Halted

ShutDown: Consumer Fraud Investigations Halted

The United States government has been shut down for almost four weeks, sending shockwaves throughout a nation already gripped by tumultuous politics and controversial issues. In addition to institutions like the National Parks System, and the National Institute of Health, all federal employees have currently been laid off from duty, and a majority of their services suspended. The ripple effect is dizzying, with many of the governments services being on hold for the duration of the shutdown. Many consumers across the country are not aware of the shutdown’s impact on some of our nation’s best departments, so you can imagine their shock when they phoned to report a consumer complaint, and were told the government couldn’t help them.

When running normally, the government requires a wealth of quality communication to run smoothly. As many federal employees remain on furlough, therefore not being compensated, everyone’s level of communication with one another is atypical and—as many federal employees are called in without pay—constantly breaking down. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is the federal agency that fields the influx of consumer complaints. A consumer submits their complaint about a business or financial entity to the CFPB, which is reviewed. According to the CFPB, after the complaint is reviewed, “We’ll forward your complaint and any documents you provide to the company and work to get a response from them. If we find that another government agency would be better able to assist, we will forward your complaint to them and let you know.” The CFPB remains in operation and was not effected by the shutdown, but if the agency is ill-equipped to deal with the complaint, they may never get off the ground, as the appropriate department might be effected by the shutdown. This leaves many consumers displaced when it comes to voicing their concerns about products and services.

la-fi-lazarus-fcc-robocalls-20160729-snapThis suspension of protection services has allowed the beast of robo-calls to fester and become feral, as consumers cannot block or report harassing robo-calls. They’re left screaming into the void. Alex Quilici, the chief executive of YouMail—a smartphone application that helps consumers block robo-calls—describes it, “It’s a neighborhood with no police on the beat.” YouMail estimated, just last month, there were 5 billion robo-calls made, and 50% of calls made in early 2019 could be coming from scammers and robots attempting to fraudulently obtain your information. These horrifying statistics are the codas for a chorus of federal employees who are aware of the scope of the problem, like Jessica Rosenworcel, the Federal Communications Commission Commissioner, “The number of robo-calls consumers are receiving is insane. The problem just keeps growing. Shutting down the government is not going to help.” As of this moment, there is no one to administrate the “Do Not Call” list, the national registry in which consumers can ask specific companies not to contact them.

The Federal Communications Commission is just one of many threads woven into the Federal Trade Commission. Another voiceless victim of the shutdown is the victim of identity fraud. Louette Duvall is one of these victims. Not long after the holidays were over, Duvall’s car was pilfered by thieves while she was at her job. They made off with her purse, her briefcase, and a wealth of identifying information that amounted to a scammer’s treasure trove. Fraudulent charges started rolling in as she scrambled to alert all of her creditors and financial institutions that she had been robbed. She began calculating the full scope of the theft’s ramifications: New checkbooks ordered, extravagant items ordered in her name, new credit cards, the list goes on and on. When she called the Federal Trade Commission to let them know her identity had been stolen, she was told they could not help her due to the government shutdown. FTC data prior to the shutdown stated that the agency received thousands of calls a day regarding identity theft alone. That’s thousands of crimes going uninvestigated every day, a Washington Post reporter pointed out when they became a victim as well. Not only are new crimes going unreported, but investigative resources are also frozen. The Consumer Sentinel Network helps investigators track the movement of identity theft and related frauds to build cases against the perpetrators, and it remains down as of day 26 of the longest government shutdown in history. At a minimum, the FTC is still allowing individuals to file complaints so that they be issued an affidavit for their creditors’ purposes.

News coverage of the shutdown has attempted to sharpen the big picture for Americans when it comes to the ripple effect of the government shutdown. While many federal agencies might be unable to assist consumers with complaints, there is recourse for consumers experiencing the myriad of issues helmed by the Federal Trade Commission. There are online, step-by-step resources for obtaining documentation to dispute fraudulent charges and claims. Consumers can also retain the services of a private investigator. One of the most beneficial aspects of hiring a private investigator is that they are the top of the chain of command in their firm. They are the ones calling the shots in any investigation, not a supervisor nor a superior. They will represent your interests and your interests alone. As is the case with many frauds and thefts, perpetrators tend to either operate remotely, or move quickly to evade law enforcement. Acting independently, private investigators will be able to move as fluidly as a scammer, crossing jurisdictional boundaries with little to no red tape. Statistics surrounding fraud indicate that many federal investigators in charge of tracking down scammers and thieves are inundated with a never-ending stream of complaints. This means their attention can be divided over and over again across a heavy caseload. A typical private investigator only handles between 3-4 cases at a time, meaning your case can be a priority for them and not just another file in a drawer.

Political pundits and talking heads don’t project a sunny forecast when it comes to the shutdown—no end in sight. As the shutdown enters its 27th day, many Americans who have been the victims of consumer fraud and identity theft who do not yet know the full scope of the shutdown’s impact will receive an ugly surprise when they turn to the federal government for help. While the government gets its house in order, know that there are options for victims of consumer and identity fraud. Consult a private investigator today to learn how their specific skill set, experience, and independence can help you get right the ship when it comes to fraud.