Continuing from our last post which focused on this article in Fraud Magazine, here are some additional signs of deception to watch for when investigating potential fraud.
A deceptive subject may try to avoid an interviewer’s questions by qualifying statements with expressions of uncertainty, weak modifiers, and vague expressions. Investigators should watch for clues such as: “I think,” “I guess,” “sort of,” “maybe,” “might,” “perhaps,” “approximately,” “could have been,” etc. Vague statements and expressions of uncertainty provide some leeway to modify assertions at a later date without directly contradicting the original statement.
Deceptive subjects try to give interviewers as little useful information as possible, while also trying hard to convince interviewers that what they say is true. Deceptive subjects often use mild oaths to make their statements sound more convincing. Be on the lookout for common expressions such as: “I swear,” “on my honor,” “as God is my witness,” “cross my heart.” Truthful witnesses are more confident that the facts will back up their account and thus may feel less need to bolster their statements with oaths.
Statements made by guilty parties often include mild or vague words rather than their harsher, more explicit synonyms. Euphemisms tend to portray the subject’s behavior in a more favorable light and minimize any harm the subject’s actions might have caused. Investigators should look for euphemistic terms such as: “missing” instead of “stolen,” “borrowed” instead of “took,” “bumped” instead of “hit,” and “warned” instead of “threatened.”
Alluding to rather than admitting actions
People sometimes allude to actions without saying they actually performed them. The author gives an example of the following statement from an employee who was questioned about the loss of some valuable data: “I try to back up my computer and put away my papers every night before going home. Last Tuesday, I decided to copy my files onto the network drive and started putting my papers in my desk drawer. I also needed to lock the customer list in the office safe.” Did the employee back up her computer? Did she copy her files onto the network drive? Did she put her papers in the desk drawer? Did she lock the customer list in the office safe? The employee alluded to all these actions without saying definitively that she completed any of them. An attentive investigator should not assume that subjects perform every action they allude to.