Psychologist Riekje Stokes (Stokes Verhoor Strategie) works as a trainer and behavioral interview advisor with the Dutch police and insurance companies on improving what she calls ‘fact-finding communication’. This blog is based on her presentation at the FRAUDtalks conference of 15 September 2016 about personalized interviewing.
What has Snow White’s ‘mirror, mirror on the wall’ to do with fraud? The link is that the answer of the mirror gives us insight into the motives, the motivation of the perpetrator. The poisoned apple is not the crime, but merely the means to remain the fairest in the land.
This also applies to fraud cases. Nevertheless, until now little attention has been paid to the motive when interviewing fraudsters. You might say, “It is always about the money, isn’t it?”, but is that really true? Everyone has his own motives. These can be divided into three categories: Pleasure, Prestige and, indeed, Pay-out.
Wouldn’t it be great if during the interview, you could just skip the bickering over facts and straightaway take the direct route of the motive? Together with the fraudster as an expert of himself. This means that you will cut to the chase, without cutting off your client.
Following this route of motivation offers extra opportunities in a fraud interview, besides following the factual information.
Pleasure, prestige, pay-out
Take, for example, the interview with a fraudulent customer who sighs at the beginning of the interview: “My biggest problem is that I can’t say no.” In the end, this turned out to be the reason why he repeatedly forged a signature, not just for his own gain, but also so his intermediary could keep his job. What a loss if we were to ignore such a remark that might reveal a possible motive.
Or take the interview you have with a manager about his alleged breach of integrity. Or rather: the interview he has with you. Because he likes to set the rules of the interview himself. He goes to great lengths to explain how important he thinks integrity is and how he selects and directs his employees based on this. And you think: “How can I steer the conversation towards my case?” But you are already there: interestingly, it is precisely this integrity that led to the interview.
Or take the interview with a careerist, in any case in the field of arson. He started off with a fire in a wastepaper basket, then in a garbage container, then in a garbage container against an empty building and eventually in a beautiful home with a family and their livestock. But he is not a pyromaniac, he categorically denies that. When asked, he knows that a pyromaniac always returns to the fire he has started, and he never does that. “Just call me an arsonist”, he says and the interview is underway.
The motive is all in the head
So how do you achieve tangible results if you follow this route? You need to use the metaphor of the mirror: let the person you are interviewing take a look at himself. A motive is all in the head, so the questioning should also be ‘all in the head’. In other words, about perception and themes in relation to the facts. Themes that match, that make the connection between this specific person involved, this specific case and the possible motives to commit specifically this type of fraud.
Within these themes, ask about the feelings, expectations and/or interests that might be connected with the fraud. Take more time to focus on the personal motive. However, first you need to know what your own motives are. What is your motive to do this work? Why do you choose to drive a certain type of car? Why do you decide to start a relationship, or to end it? You need to know these things about yourself in order to be able to question someone else.
My own motive is that I grew up with lies. This made me turn fact-finding into my career, and also fact-finding communication. I see the benefit and need of developing and employing the personalized interview in this field of fact-finding. It is important that one is able, willing and brave enough to opt for this unusual approach.
Do not let the truth get away
We really need to understand that the fact-finding triangle consists of the cornerstones person, case and motive. In its center lies the truth. If one of these cornerstones is missing, then the truth gets away. This would mean a missed opportunity.
Walk alongside and together with your clients on the direct route to truth rather than bicker with them over facts and content. Let them take a look at themselves and reflect, and do not only ask yourself how poisonous the apples were, but above all, why they were used. Then you will get to the heart of the matter and a real solution and a reduced chance of recidivism will come within reach.