[This article is originally published in bizjournals.com written by RSM US LLP - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Issac Avila]

Persons engaged in fraud and illegal activity have long used several methods to hide ill-gotten assets. Today, forensic investigators have powerful new technological tools to track and uncover these assets. Some specialized techniques may require digital forensic specialists; however, more basic options are also effective.

Whether the suspected fraudster is a business partner, an employee or some other related party, the process for uncovering hidden accounts tends to follow a similar path.

Let’s look at basic techniques first.

The first step is to build a financial profile for the person or entity in question. This process involves gathering and reviewing documents and records such as tax returns, bank statements, mobile payment account history, investment account statements, credit card statements, life insurance policies, paycheck stubs, real and personal property records, lien records and any other financial-related statements for the period of time during which questionable activity is suspected.

As these documents are being compiled, build a master list comprised of all accounts identified, including owner’s names, authorized users, associated addresses or other account profile information. It is also advisable to identify potential email addresses, social media accounts, and other web-based account information.

When analyzing these documents, keep the following tips in mind:

  • For financial accounts identified, get the electronic statements directly from the source when possible. This helps ensure the integrity of the information. Also, if possible, obtain the information in electronic format so it can be ingested into various search and analysis tools.
  • Tax returns provide information concerning wages, business income, and investment income. They can identify the existence of both real and personal property and the possibility of foreign accounts or trusts. As tax returns reveal sources of income, tie them to specific accounts. For example, if the interest income is listed on the return, but no account is identified, investigate to find an institution, account number, and the related statements.
  • If a business is uncovered, in addition to identifying all financial accounts related to that business, try to obtain the articles of organization and/or other ownership information for that business. This can help identify, among many things, parties involved in illegal activity and other businesses a suspect is associated with, and it can even help identify any hidden assets.
  • Investment accounts have long been a popular vehicle to transfer and/or launder illegal funds through the purchase and subsequent sale of financial products and commodities. 
  • Reviewing pay stubs from the relevant period cannot only identify multiple bank accounts, but it can also help identify and/or support any unusual spending behavior and other financial activity.
  • Mobile payments through providers such as PayPal and Venmo have become increasingly popular and provide another avenue to divert funds and hide assets. The transaction history for these accounts should be obtained not only for this reason but in addition, it provides a paper trail of both the origin and recipient of funds that could uncover hidden accounts or parties associated with fraud or illegal activity.
  • Depending on the jurisdiction (state, county, city) real property records including deeds, liens and other documents identifying ownership of assets are publicly available information. These records can be used to identify any assets not previously reported without the request of a subpoena.
  • If a recent credit report can be obtained, it can be a useful document to help identify a large portion of these items in a consolidated format.

With all information gathered, the next step is a funds-tracing exercise to analyze deposits to, and withdrawals from, each of the identified accounts. Funds tracing may reveal even more accounts for which statements should be obtained and funds traced. Update the account master list to reflect any new accounts discovered and to record all deposits, withdrawals and other activity for each account.

When conducting a funds tracing, remember the following:

  • Develop a thorough list of the suspect’s family members and acquaintances, including names, aliases, and addresses, and match those names against account statements and transactions to determine if any related parties received funds. Close attention should be paid to any financial transactions with the suspect’s parents, children, siblings, romantic partners and any of their respective businesses.
  • Any unusual transfers or expenditures deserve special attention, as well as recurring deposits from a bank or brokerage in any amount. This could uncover dividend-paying stocks or interest-paying bonds.
  • A review of canceled checks will not only tell to whom the checks were paid, but also to what account number and institution the check was deposited, which can lead to new hidden accounts. Again, pay special attention to checks to family members and acquaintances or for unusual activities or amounts.
  • An analysis of ATM withdrawals or credit card cash advances, including aggregate amounts and the locations made, may indicate areas where the suspect is spending a large amount of time and possibly working to hide assets in secret accounts. Ask for explanations for any large cash withdrawals, whether through an ATM or in person.

Digital forensic analysis is another powerful tool for tracking down hidden assets. Whether it’s a work computer, personal computer, tablet or smart phone, any activity performed on the device can leave a trail of evidence. More sophisticated suspects may use encryption, wiping programs and private or remote web-browsing sessions to hide this evidence, but such steps on their own can help indicate fraud.

Digital forensic efforts to uncover hidden accounts focus on a variety of areas, including:

  • Email contents— Investigators can conduct keyword searches using names of suspected co-conspirators, romantic partners, family members, business dealings, business names, known code words or any other word or words that might be of interest to the investigator. They can also search for key information, such as new account setup forms, details or confirmations related to wire transfers, mobile payments, details of new business ventures or other case-specific information.
  • Accounting or budgeting software programs—A suspect who is a business owner or key accounting employee may be keeping multiple sets of books. Even if deleted, these may be recovered via digital forensic analysis and lead to unknown accounts.
  • Spreadsheets and other files—Suspects often keep track of account numbers and other information in spreadsheets or other files. 
  • Browsing history—Most internet browsers log information pertaining to website visits, as well as other internet activities, such as the completion of web-based forms and temporary internet files. A digital forensic specialist may uncover visits to bank or brokerage websites that may lead to unidentified accounts. Internet activity can also show information relating to online purchasing and payment activity, which could be useful in identifying expenditures and other potential assets.
  • Metadata analysis—Artifacts contained within documents (Word, Excel, PDFs), such as created and modified times, username and company name, can also help uncover fraud.
  • Registry analysis—Certain artifacts stored in the registry, such as USB connection information, network, and login information also can help in an investigation.
  • Mobile devices—Forensic specialists can analyze call logs, SMS messaging, and in some cases, email and email attachments. In addition, users tend to use these devices to access and monitor various assets such as financial accounts, online payment, etc.
  • Online social media activity, including Facebook, LinkedIn, and other sites—An analysis of a suspect’s public profile and activity may uncover a hidden business or other interests, which may lead to other unknown accounts. In addition, people frequently post information and pictures of new assets (i.e., cars, boats, etc.) on social media sites. This can lead investigators to potential assets and also help with documenting large expenditures.

By forensically preserving the electronic evidence (computer hard drive, mobile device, etc.) a number of potential data sources might become available. Included in this forensically preserved data might be previously deleted files, multiple versions or iterations of files, indications of files and programs being accessed. All of these items could provide leads for additional sources of information or indications of the user accessing or deleting data.

While this is not exhaustive, it does provide a useful overview for tracking down hidden accounts. Keep in mind that accounts are not the only places where fraudulent gains can be hidden.

However, a thorough search for, and careful analysis of, hidden accounts should be a central part of any fraud investigation.

For more information about fraud investigations, contact Brad Koranda at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call 612-376-9387.

RSM’s purpose is to deliver the power of being understood to our clients, colleagues, and communities through world-class audit, tax and consulting services focused on middle market businesses. For more information, visit rsmus.com.

As a partner with RSM's Forensic and Valuation Services group, Brad Koranda provides strategic advisory and financial services to companies across a broad scope of industries, including business and professional services, real estate, manufacturing, distribution, technology, insurance, investment management, life sciences, health care, and financial services sectors.
Categorized in Investigative Research

[This article is originally published in cba.ca - Uploaded by AIRS Member: Barbara Larson] 

Identity theft, or the theft of personal information, can be the starting point to a range of crimes — from financial fraud and forgery to abuse of government programs. The thief only needs a small amount of information, as little as your name and birthdate, to start building their new identity and committing fraud. That is why combating identity theft requires the cooperation and efforts of business, law enforcement, individual consumers and the government.

Banks have highly sophisticated security systems and experts in place to protect customers’ personal and financial information and to protect them from being the victims of financial fraud. They also work closely with law enforcement to help educate consumers about steps they can take to minimize the risk of becoming a victim. Consumers also have a role to play in protecting themselves, however, and must remain vigilant.

Signs of identity theft

You could be a victim of identity theft if:

  • You are contacted by a creditor because an application for credit that you did not apply for was received in your name and with your address.
  • You receive a phone call or letter informing you that you have been denied or approved by a creditor that you never applied to.
  • You receive credit card statements or other bills with your information that you never applied to.
  • You no longer receive your credit card statements or any of your mail.
  • You are contacted by a collection agency informing you that they are collecting for a defaulted account established with your identity that you never opened.

What to do if you are a victim

If you think you have been a victim of identity theft, here are some important actions to take:

  • Contact your bank or credit card issuer right away – the bank will take the appropriate steps to help prevent fraud in your accounts. These steps could include canceling and reissuing credit or debit cards, investigating and reversing fraudulent transactions and providing further advice to customers.
  • Contact local police – contact your local police force and file a report about the fraud.
  • Contact Canada’s credit reporting agencies – if you suspect that you may have been a victim of identity theft, contact both of Canada’s credit reporting agencies, Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada, and obtain a copy of your credit report.  If there are creditors on the report that you have not done business with, contact those organizations and let them know you have been the victim of identity theft.
  • Consider a fraud alert for your credit files – Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada can also put a fraud alert put on your credit files. With this fraud alert, creditors that have viewed your credit report will have to contact you before extending credit. This can help prevent someone else from taking out a loan or credit card in your name.
  • Contact other organizations as necessary – other organizations and government agencies may also need to know if your personal information has been stolen and used to commit fraud.  For example, you should contact government agencies such as Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) if someone has used your Social Insurance Number to apply for government services.

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Source: This article was published searchengineland.com By Greg Sterling - Contributed by Member: Robert Hensonw

The company is filing new lawsuits, has developed tools and a stronger education program.

Scammers claiming to represent Google continue to prey on small business owners. They often also make threats about removing listings or outrageous claims about ranking improvements. Sometimes they try to charge for things that are free on Google.

In the past, Google has done a number of things to try and stop this kind of fraud, including filing lawsuits. Now, it’s stepping up its efforts and has announced a new set of initiatives.

The company is taking legal action against several entities. In addition, it can now better identify accounts tied to scammers and remove them. Google has also developed a tool to let business owners report scams, and it’s providing a directory of trusted partners.

Here’s an abbreviated version of what Google says in its blog post today:

  • We’re taking legal action against Kydia Inc. d/b/a BeyondMenu, Point Break Media, LLC (and affiliated entities) and Supreme Marketing Group, Inc. d/b/a Small Business Solutions
  • We’ve developed new automated and manual techniques to better identify Google accounts tied to scam efforts.
  • We’ve created a new tool that lets business owners report scammy practices and policy violations.
  • We’ve started providing resources and education to local small business organizations.
  • We’re launching the Google My Business Partners program [with] a directory of trusted partners.

Google is also recommending steps that local business owners should take themselves:

  • Make callers prove they’re from Google.
  • Claim GMB pages.
  • Understand that ranking claims are probably fake.
  • Don’t respond to robocalls.
  • Use the Do Not Call Registry.

The partner directory will be especially helpful. Litigation is also critical. To the extent that Google sues and wins, it will be a deterrent to firms (within the reach of US courts) trying to take advantage of the ignorance of small businesses.

Categorized in Search Engine

Cybercrime is everywhere, and the least you can do is read up about it. You might think Internet and email scams only affect those who are not tech savvy or do not keep up with the daily news, but that is not true. From IT professionals to teachers, to journalists, people from all fragments of society and professional fronts have fallen for these immaculately planned online fraudsBusiness Compromise ScamsPharming, etc, which might confuse anybody. And the notion of risk-taking obviously does not work in this context. With the advent of social network and the wide usage of emailing, these scams acquired quite a foothold.

Common Online, Internet & Email scams

Here are the 10 Internet and email scams you should look out for:

Nigerian Scam

Possibly the most talked about scams, these operate mostly through the mail and messaging services. People usually receive mails from a fake Nigerian individual, who claims to be from a very wealthy family and is looking for somebody to donate her money. Usually, these scams are fronts for black money or identity theft. The user is promised a huge amount of money if he or she would share his details, and a surprising number of people fall for it. They will also ask the unwitting user to sign a number of legal forms, which are actually pretty effective in taking money out of your account.

International Lottery Scam

The lottery scam is perhaps the oldest and most obvious scams in the history of Internet fraud, and yet people are duped by it. Basically, a mail reaches your server from an unknown lottery company, and it looks official and almost real. But there are obviously some red flags which expert can point out. Usually, when this happens, the mail will not address you by your name or your personal details. They promise to transfer millions of dollars into your personal account, if you give them your bank details, and then, of course, they drain the money out of your account. Millions of people around the world have lost a massive amount of their earnings through this scam. Sometimes, the emails take the name of a famous lottery company, which might be a global name, and with high-end techniques, conmen have better means of faking their credentials, so you should always be on the lookout.

Travel scams

This kind of fraud is pretty relevant even today, as people who are on these websites or get the fraudulent emails are not at all expecting to get swindled. People see huge discounts or really low rates on some travel packages and fall for it. They will also ask for your private details, and you will need to pay some money. Usually, these are quick scams and won’t drain your account, but you will never see the money you spent or get any tickets. Whenever you receive such a mail or spot something suspicious on a website, it is best to double-check.

Credit Card Scams

These frauds are also hugely common.Usually, you will get a mail from your an operator who claims to be your bank. They will tell you your credit/debit card has been canceled, or you are facing some breach in your account and thus, need to act fast. Most people, in a state of panic, give out their credit card details, One Time Passwords, and even their pin numbers. It is very important to remember that your bank would never ask you for this kind of sensitive information over mail or phone, and be careful.

Job Scams

These kinds of frauds prey upon those who are vulnerable. Most people are looking for jobs update their personal details, like mail ids and names on employment search portals. Anybody can access those details and contact the user. You will get a mail, asking for your resume, educational details, and other credentials. They will promise you an interview and possibly ask for a token amount of money, which would be reverted back to you upon hiring or at a later time. These scams are usually fronts for identity thefts and money swindling.

Digital payment scams

These are the easiest and the most dangerous frauds there is, and everybody should take note since people are so tech-reliant right now. Millions of people use digital wallets or online payment portals like PayPal or Venmo. Users often get an alert on their mail about how their account has been hacked, or an amount of money has been taken out of their account. Usually, people panic, and it never occurs to them that they are being duped by a third party.

Online ad scams

These are similar to the employment scam routine, just a little more creative. When you post an item for sale on a portal or post an ad to buy a specific item, in websites like eBay or Craigslist, or any other platform, fraudulent people can access those details and get back to you. They’ll tell you they have what you are looking for, and might even share pictures with you, but these offers usually come with a payment-first policy, and after you pay them,  you don’t hear back from them.

Investment scams

These frauds are like a short-term Ponzi scheme. You might get alerts or emails offering you ‘double your money on a month’ plans or any other such scams. Some fake portals even have provisions for your verification, where they ask you for a token amount of money, and hence dupe you.

Disaster relief or rescue scams

Whenever you get a mail asking you to donate money to a charity or a rescue operation, never respond to them. Most people obviously fall for these as they want to support a cause, but as there is no way to verify these scams, and people usually donate a substantial amount of money to disaster relief, this is a very dangerous fraud.

Ask for help scams

These frauds are more personal in nature, and you might get a mail with very specific details about a certain person, stuck in a situation in a random country, from where he/she cannot get back home and will ask for your money. People often get blindsided by the personal nature of these emails, but it is very important to remember that these are usually chain emails, and ask people to send over financial help.

Online scams are a huge risk as you can encounter them anywhere, and the smartest of people get affected by it, as they never see it coming. Whenever you encounter anything on a new portal or website, it is always best to verify their credentials before you send in your money or personal details.

Be aware, Stay safe!

 Source: This article was published thewindowsclub.com

Categorized in Internet Privacy

Nearly two weeks after Donald Trump won the 2016 Presidential Election — and month before the Electoral College is set to vote, making the results permanent — a new movement wants to audit the November 8 vote, to investigate whether Trump won the election fair and square, or whether error and even fraud may have placed him in the White House.

One element of the vote audit movement is a Change.org online petition calling for election officials to “double-check the electronic results by conducting a ‘risk-limiting’ audit of the presidential election in every state that uses paper ballots.”

Even a United States Senator, South Carolina Republican Lindsey Graham, has called for a congressional investigation into possible election tampering, particularly by Russian intelligence agencies.

Audit Vote, #AuditTheVote, Was election rigged, Donald Trump wins election, Russian election hack, vote fraud

A vote-counting computer used to tabulate ballots in the 2016 presidential election.

The petition started by the Verified Voting Foundation seeks 75,000 signatures which will be forwarded to Secretaries of State, election officials, and state governors. As of Sunday morning, November 20, the petition had received 65,199 supporters.

“The FBI determined some months ago that hacking, originating from Russia, was having an influence on our electoral process,” the petition states. “These hackers interfered with our presidential election through attempted and successful penetration of email and voter registration databases, among other systems. This created fear, uncertainty, and doubt about the safety of our electoral processes.”

In fact, it was not only the FBI but the National Security Agency itself — the intelligence bureau responsible for America’s online and digital spying and counter-espionage efforts — which detected attempts to tip the United States election by what NSA chief Michael Rogers called “a nation state,” as seen in the excerpted interview with Rogers in the video below.

“This was not something that was done casually, this was not something that was done by chance,” Rogers said in the Wall Street Journal interview. “This was not a target that was selected purely arbitrarily.”

While Russian ties to hacked emails from the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Democratic National Committee that were subsequently released online by the document-dumping site WikiLeaks were confirmed by U.S. intelligence agencies as well as independent investigators weeks before the election, hackers connected to the Russian government are also known to have broken into a voter registration system in Illinois.

The Russian hackers also entered at least one other state’s voter database — and in theory could have penetrated many more which have yet to be detected. Once inside, the hackers could have altered voter information to create fake registrations and alter voting patterns.

Audit Vote, #AuditTheVote, Was election rigged, Donald Trump wins election, Russian election hack, vote fraud

Russian President Vladimir Putin, suspected of engineering manipulation of the presidential election that tipped the vote to Donald Trump.

According to Alexandra Chalupa, a consultant to the DNC investigating the Russian hacks, told the Gothamist news site that in Pennsylvania, especially, the voting results appeared strange, with between 50 and 75 percent of provisional ballots rejected. Even more alarming, “a large number of voters who voted for a Republican president and senator, but voted for Democrats down the rest of the ballot.”

“That’s not usually the pattern,” Chalupa said.

Trump ended up beating Clinton in Pennsylvania by a mere 57,588 votes — less than one percentage point — winning the state’s crucial 20 electoral votes, despite the fact that Pennsylvania had voted for the Democrat in six consecutive presidential elections.

A new Twitter hashtag, #AuditTheVote, appeared on Saturday, and one of the hashtag creators, Melinda Byerley, explained that the purpose was to collect public information and data that could either verify or disprove claims of election tampering and fraud.

“This is not about (Hillary Clinton) or (Donald Trump),” Byerley wrote. “This is about national sovereignty and a potential foreign breach of our voting system. “America is a beacon to the world for free and fair elections. Our ability to remain a superpower rests on the trust the world has in us.”

Author:  Jonathan Vankin

Source:  http://www.inquisitr.com/

Categorized in News & Politics

Online scams are a headache, and social media has become more and more saturated over time. With the proliferation of its content, the power of social media has been tapped by many industries: advertising, marketing, and even the academe. With new web applications being built everyday, it's no wonder that criminal and legal work has come up with applications of their own.

Used to deepend and filter through social media results, Social Detection is a robust search engine that can crawl and churn results from various social media websites such as Facebook, Craigslist, and more. These results are used as variables in case analyses for private investigation and information security, tracking data leaks, and aggregating online evidence for use in court. Invented by Michael Petrie and Scott Catron, who both work as professional private investigators, the web-based application replaces the often arduous process of stakeouts with a more technical approach.

Today, our digital footprint creates a trail of hard evidence for investigators. The increase in our public visibility means that our lives' personal details become shared relentlessly. Securing one's online accounts is a step towards making the web a safer place to share, as there are many scams and malvertising schemes that litter online. According to a report by CNET, Social Detection offers a comprehensive analysis of results over time, all of which can be filtered through with specific categories.

In a report by Chicago Tribune, Michael Petrie said that "If there is fraud, it will be found, provided there's a web presence," such that this presence will reflect as a kind of online credibility. "It's not a reputation anymore. It's a webutation," the private investigator adds. The current limitation with Social Detection's web service, however, forbids individuals from making use of its interface. Professional licenses and legal papers through insurance companies are required for an account to be created, hence also securing other individual's privacy.

Future applications of the service remain unknown, but Petrie has stated that "we know it belongs in almost every category of business where people need to make critical decisions about people," maintaining that the service will most likely evolve into a database search for the public. This can help reconnect people who've lost contact with family and friends, as well as create connections for professional use. Check out this lecture video and learn more.

Source : parentherald

Categorized in Investigative Research

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