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What a Lightning Storm Tells Us About Fraud

Fraud is, relatively speaking, a rare event. Traditional reporting of fraud losses is often in "basis points" — tenths or hundredths of percentage points of total spend.

And yet it is pervasive, expected and dangerous. So there is a need to maintain vigilance and be more holistic in one's defence.

I was reminded of this by, of all things, a spectacular display of forked lightning during our family vacation this past summer.

As the storm grew closer and the lightning bolts more intense, I tried to capture a picture or two of nature's incredible beauty and power.

Now I don't consider myself much of a photographer, but I do have a pretty decent camera with a whole range of automated features that have served me incredibly well in all sorts of picture conditions in the past. Nonetheless, I quickly came to realise that the automated settings were insufficient to pick up the majesty of the storm. I tried manually photographing each lightning, but that didn’t work either. I found the only reliable means of capturing a satisfactory image was to run the camera in a virtual video mode and then to go back and select the best timed and most reflective shot from the entire footage.

How is this like catching fraud? Humour me:

  • Like an electrical storm where we know lightning is likely, we know that fraud is pervasive in certain conditions.
  • Like the lightning flashes, though, the exact timing and location of the fraud is incredibly difficult to predict, even when one knows to expect it.
  • When it happens, it’s over in a flash, but then changes position and strikes again.
  • Capturing fraud, like photographing the lightning flashes, is unlikely to be successful unless one takes a more holistic approach (setting the camera to video mode), instead of just taking snapshots.
  • Catching the right image, like disrupting the criminals, is incredibly satisfying.
  • Storms, like fraud, can be incredibly disruptive even when they happen in the distance. Certainly we lost electrical power in the village where we were staying. Often it is the knock-on impacts of fraud rather than the direct strike that lingers on.
  • Spectacular effects like lightning attract attention briefly but are quickly forgotten as simply "an occasional occurrence" that "happens somewhere else." The same is true of fraud: People know it happens, but until they get hit most assume it won’t happen to them (and often act accordingly).
Is your fraud camera on video mode and being pointed to the latest criminal storm clouds?

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