Prevention and collaboration in the fight against fraud
Former City of London Police Commissioner Ian Dyson chaired the panel of experts featuring Richard Hampton, Head of Intelligence and Fraud Prevention, NHS Counter Fraud Authority; Dave Carter, Head of Counter Fraud, British Council; Andrew Walker, Counter Fraud Manager, Education and Skills Funding Agency, Department for Education, and Thomas Drohan, Chief Commercial Officer, Clue.
The panel discussed challenges the counter fraud team are facing in the fight against increasingly agile fraudsters – asking how technology can help them:
- Adopt proactive and preventative counter fraud strategies.
- Increase operational effectiveness by automating manual processes.
- Break down information silos.
- Enable collaboration through data sharing.
- Attract and retain talent.
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Prevention is better than cure
Delegates heard about some successes in adopting preventative approaches and a desire to adopt proactive strategies more widely in favour of reactively investigating a growing number of cases resulting from failures to prevent fraud. To help make that shift, the panel spoke about using technology to analyse investigated cases and intelligence gathered through proactive activities to build a picture of how threats develop to most effectively target resources to counter them.
Tackling the skills gap
The conversation moved to recruitment and retention challenges. While recruiting mainstream investigative skills was not generally found to be a problem, the panel spoke of difficulties finding people with the specific skills needed for complex, detailed fraud investigation. Higher salaries in the private sector have resulted in staff being lost, although some return to the public sector because of their allegiance to the cause-led nature of the work.
Recognition was given of the efforts to help tackle recruitment challenges by the development of the counter fraud profession across government by the Cabinet Office and the potential for a career spanning multiple government departments and agencies across different disciplines. The role of technology in attracting and retaining talent was discussed. Cutting-edge technology was seen to have the potential to attract younger recruits, while also helping retain employees by making it easier to progress investigations with more user-friendly systems.
Collaboration through data
Panellists discussed challenges of fraud detection and prevention in large, disparate, organisations operating nationally and internationally, striking an optimistic note about what can achieved through collaboration, elimination of silos, and use of effective data sharing. Organisational culture was highlighted as being fundamental to achieving this, as was having the right systems in place to enable success.
Interoperable technology can facilitate data sharing between teams and organisations across the public and private sector thereby helping create a more complete picture of the threat landscape, supporting a more joined up approach to combat fraud. Data protection legislation is often cited as a barrier to collaboration where data sharing agreements have yet to be put in place.
Delegates heard views about how to make successful investment cases and not to limit ambition or innovation because investment is always going to be limited. Return on investment in reactive counter fraud approaches was said to be easier to measure that investment in proactive approaches that can have less immediately tangible impact – with benefits felt over the longer-term.
Painting the picture of what the technology will enable, how it will help extract meaning from data, and what information it will reveal, are essential to make a successful case. One panellist spoke of the cycle of successful preventative strategies leading to fewer cases of fraud leading to budget cuts and subsequently an increase in fraud, and the need to have the right measures and reporting in place to try and break the cycle.
Potential for automation
The final theme discussed by the panel was the potential for automation to eliminate repetitive manual work. One challenge was for bodies to transition from a conservative mindset to one which embraces the opportunities of new technologies including artificial intelligence and machine learning.
Increasing volumes of data can overwhelm investigators, thereby limiting their effectiveness. Providers have an opportunity to educate about the potential of new technology and build trust in processes that have appropriate controls, security, and audit trails in place to help manage and extract meaning from vast data sets.
The panel discussion was informed by interviews conducted by Clue with counter fraud experts across UK central and local Government departments, agencies, and public bodies. The interviews probed the operational challenges they face, trying to keep pace with advances in the technologies that fraudsters are deploying to commit their crimes, exploring whether public sector bodies are lagging or moving ahead in the ‘technological arms race’ with fraudsters.
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