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).