Fraud Talk: Navigating the Threat Landscape in Today’s Tech-Driven World

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Four panelists from a 2021 ACFE Women’s Summit session discuss the ever-evolving threat landscape and how it has affected fraud trends throughout the past year. The panel of speakers included moderator, Amber Mac, along with Amy Chang, Cynthia Herrington and Amber Schroeder.

In this excerpt from the full transcript from episode 106 of Fraud Talk, the panelists discuss how they stay current on new and emerging tech, as well as the impact of COVID-19 on how fraudsters are using tech. Download the full transcript of “Navigating the Threat Landscape in Today’s Tech-Driven World” in PDF form or listen to the episode at the bottom of this post.

Amber Mac: Cynthia … what new tech, gadget or enhancement have you found that has come up in fraud [examinations]?

Cynthia: Well, it’s funny because the software developers that are coming out and presenting to the social media awareness model. Some may call “monitoring.” There’s so many. They’re tripping over each other. Then the last, since 2015, there’s got to be at least 20 companies that have come to market and are all pretty much selling the same thing. Then all it takes is a Facebook or a Twitter to change the API, and their software platform, you know, it wobbles a bit. What we’ve actually done … We use these tools because they make us efficient. They make us faster and better able to handle our client needs. Frankly, you really still need to know the fundamentals to get the job done.

You still need to know how to do searches directly. You still need to understand the platforms themselves to get into and understand because when the tools fail, you need to know how to do this. I ask accountants all the time. I’m like, “Great. You have five different software programs that will help you take large volumes of data and compress it into one report, but if you didn’t have the software, could you still do it?

“Well, yeah, it’d take us longer.” Well fine. The software platform is just whatever fits your needs so long as you’re getting the end results that you find are factual and good for what you need, that’s really going to be in the end result.

Amber Mac: Excellent. Amber, I think we have you back at least with voice. We’ve had quite a thorough conversation so far with Amy and Cynthia about the threat landscape, what’s happening right now in terms of some of those threats, as well as what’s taking place in social media.

Maybe I can throw that one to you just knowing that we have covered a little bit about some of the issues that exist right now, as far as the threat landscape, and your opinion on what threats are influencing the threat landscape today in 2021.

Amber: I think obviously … I’m hoping you guys can hear me because I’ll be voice for the rest of the thing, the panel. I think the big change that I’m seeing is that so many more transactions in general are done almost exclusively electronically. The variety that’s happening with, specifically with some of the fraud. I joke about like Venmo and everything else and the emergence of that for payment.

As you see different generations come in, I’m seeing a change in just how they’re using that technology, how they’re using it with money, how they’re using it with their data. You look at generation Z versus I’m a Gen-Xer, and I have a totally different perspective on it than my kids do. It changed the way that I look at an investigation and the type of data I’m looking for based on the age of the person I’m investigating. That’s changed even more so now that everyone is remote and you’re not seeing as much of each other. They’re relying much heavier on that technology.

Amber Mac: I love that you brought that up, Amber, because that is the last question for this section before we move on to talking about opportunities, where to look, how to build your networks.

Amy, I’m going to start this one over to you talking about what Amber just mentioned as far as work from home and the shift that’s taken place talking about things like unemployment theft, updated or creative fraud techniques. Can you talk a little bit about this new way that people are working and how potentially that has just totally changed the landscape?

Amy: When COVID-19 first hit and we were tracking a lot of the new fraud pieces that were coming up, especially with PPP and a lot of the other, a lot of the developments that happened within the United States, and you look at the correlated fraud that occurred after as well. A lot of it still occurred in the tried and true methods, through phishing, vishing, smishing. Vishing being voice phishing, if you’re impersonating someone over the phone, and smishing is over SMS text, things like that.

It’s that they’ve adopted this theme of COVID-19, and rightly so, because it was scary and we didn’t know what was happening. We were having a lot of different types of inputs of information from different sources. No one really knew what the clear picture was of the landscape from a work-from-home perspective. It was ripe for opportunity for these fraudsters to really take advantage of it. By capitalizing on COVID-19 in their email, their phishing emails, their spear phishes, and their links and their PDFs, and all of these things really amplified a lot of the fraud that we saw in the early to mid of last year when COVID first hit.

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SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners