Exploring the role of technology in fraud investigations

Marguerite Clarke, Customer Success Manager, Altia
May 2, 2024

As fraud investigations become increasingly complex, stretched teams are seeking the help from advancements in technology, with automation and machine learning being incorporated into everyday processes and tasks. However, budgets are stretched, too – so having a good understanding of when technology is most effective and when it should be used with caution can help you get the most out of the tools you have today and any future investments. The perfect area to deploy technology is on areas of inefficiency. There are five main areas that can become common areas of inefficiency in fraud investigations.  


Data overload: the volume of data in a fraud investigation can be significant in comparison to some other investigation types and often all of it has to be processed in some way so that you can see the bigger picture. If technology isn’t available, this can lead to manual data entry into spreadsheets and folders. 


Complexity: fraud investigations can quite quickly grow arms and legs with more and more people involved and bank accounts brought to the surface that have to be explored. 


Resistance to change: the amount of data can be overwhelming, as can the complexity of the investigation, but often the way we’ve always done it feels like the safest option. Our trusted processes have served us over the years so why change it? Resources and budgets are stretched and we may not be able to rely on our usual methods of working.  


Upskilling requirement: it’s likely that you have multiple systems at your disposal but have had knowledge passed down to you from people and along with that their bad habits as well.  


Access to the tools: there may be a system already in place that you don’t have access to, maybe there is so much red tape that prevents you from using a system effectively. 


The good news is technology can dramatically improve each of these areas of challenge.   

When it comes to volume of activity or tasks, automation is your friend. Fraudsters are adapting and we need to, too. As they develop more sophisticated tactics, the volume of fraudulent activity can increase. Automation can easily scale to handle this growing workload, ensuring that investigators are not overwhelmed. However, the positive impact of automation goes beyond the ability to reduce the time and effort involved with processing large volumes of information about transactions, accounts and financial records. Automation tools can also perform complex data analysis, uncovering hidden patterns and trends that might be challenging for a human investigator to detect. Automated systems can also continuously monitor transactions and flag suspicious activities in real-time, allowing for a quicker response to potential fraud. 

As the growing number of complex cases means more and more people are involved in an investigation, technology can also minimise the risk of human error and inconsistencies. Automated tools follow predefined rules and algorithms consistently. This consistency can be crucial in maintaining the integrity of the investigation. 


Be mindful of the limitations 

While there are clear benefits of embracing technology, there are some limitations, and we need to approach these tools with some caution. 


Automation is excellent for repetitive tasks but often lacks the creativity and adaptability of human workers when it comes to handling unforeseen situations or complex problem-solving. Automated systems may struggle to understand the broader context of transactions, making it difficult to distinguish between legitimate but unusual behaviour and actual fraud. For example, automated systems can generate false positives, flagging legitimate transactions or activities as suspicious. This can lead to unnecessary investigations, which consume time and resources.  


The use of automation in fraud investigation can also raise privacy concerns, especially if it involves the collection and analysis of personal data. Striking a balance between fraud prevention and protecting individual’s privacy is challenging. 


Implementing automation systems can be expensive and it may take time to see a return on investment. Smaller organisations may find it challenging to afford the initial costs. You also need to plan for the tool being kept up to date. Fraudsters are constantly evolving their tactics, and automated systems may struggle to keep up with these changes, requiring regular updates to functionality. 


Ultimately, if used appropriately technology and specifically automation can be of huge benefit to your investigations. You can cut out some manual processes and spend the time on other elements of the investigation. While there is a cost of implementing a new technology or making sure the right teams and users are up-to-speed with existing technology, if it’s being used in the right way, by automating routine and repetitive tasks, organisations can reduce the time and cost, meaning investigators can focus on the more complex tasks that need judgement. 



Four things to ask yourself when you’re considering changing your technology choices 

  1. Do the tools you are using or considering link together? 

Investigations are made up of many components, so rather than jumping between systems can you access everything you need in one place? For example, can you easily incorporate and use digital intelligence such as transcription files or open source intelligence, as well as financial statements?  


  1. Are the tools future-proofed?

Is it quick and easy to get upgrades and updates to functionality? Are there additional costs for upgrades? 

  1. Does it make sense what’s being automated?

Are you looking to solve a problem that is repetitive and time consuming? Does it allow for human creativity and judgement at the right points in the process? 


  1. Are the tools you are using today being used to their fullest capability?

When was the last time you made sure the teams using the tools you have today have the latest knowledge and training? Are the licences with the right people? Ask your supplier to help.  


Learn more about how Altia products can help here.