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INTERVIEWING AS A ‘FORENSIC-TYPE’ PROCEDURE - page 3 / 19

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The Basics of Interviewing Many allegations of fraud are resolved, and many confessions and restitutions are obtained, because of good interviewing skills. However, many fraud investigations are also “blown” because of interviewing mistakes (Albrecht, 1995). Case in point: A corporate auditor for a national chain of gas stations uncovered a $58,000 discrepancy in the cash account during the year-end audit. He then solicited explanations for the discrepancy from both the office manager and the bookkeeper--the two employees in the best position to steal the company’s cash. The explanations given for the discrepancy did not satisfy the auditor who then declared (in effect): “I’ll be back first thing in the morning to figure this thing out, and if I can’t find a legitimate reason for the shortage in the cash account, heads are going to roll!” Not surprisingly, that night someone intentionally burned the gas station to the ground. Local law enforcement officials determined the fire had been intentionally started and had originated in the office--next to the filing cabinets containing all relevant documents needed to resolve the discrepancy. As a result, the auditor was unable to develop a case against the suspected fraudster(s) using direct evidence since all relevant source documents had literally gone “up in smoke.”

The auditor “blew” this investigation by making two common interviewing mistakes: First, he attempted to conduct the interviews without adequate preparation. The proper sequence of events in an investigation should be: (1) identify discrepancy or irregularity, (2) review source documents and other records relevant to the discrepancy, (3) employ other evidence-gathering procedures such as surveillance, net worth analysis of targets, and interviews of those employees not likely to be responsible for the defalcation, and (4) interview suspect(s). Mistakenly, the corporate auditor went directly from step one to step four. Consequently, it was then impossible for him to complete step two. Second, the auditor approached the targets with an insensitive, “out-to-get-someone” attitude. An effective interviewer should be sensitive, respectful, and seeking the truth--not trying to make “heads roll.” As this example illustrates, the ability to conduct effective interviews is critical to those responsible for detecting and investigating fraudulent activity. Effective interviewing is a function of both a well-structured interview and a well-prepared interviewer. Successful interviewers typically excel in interpersonal relations and can accurately identify verbal and nonverbal cues of deception. Interviewing as a ‘Forensic-Type’ Procedure

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