Fighting fraud through crowdsourcing and the correct systems

David Clarke is Today Translations’ Translation Security Assurance Officer and a trustee of the UK’s independent fraud watchdog, the Fraud Advisory Panel (FAP). For a down to earth view on what the economic downturn means for you as a potential victim of fraud, take a look at the annual review published by the FAP.

Let us be clear, we are living in a period of great uncertainty and face dangers that rival those of the 1930s and the Great Depression. No one knows where this era of Great Austerity will lead next but we can be sure that cutting costs while trying to improve outcomes will be a challenge society will have to grapple with for years to come.

Thinking smarter about how we work and making the very best use of people’s skills will be more important than ever in our world of ageing citizens, cyber-crime and fraud, and big data. In the case of services that have traditionally been supplied by public sector bodies, such as the police, crowdsourcing could provide a means to working smarter in the future.

In the Panel’s annual review, I describe how crowd engagement could help small groups fight fraud for themselves in the years ahead . The model would see victims of fraud using crowdsourcing, or what I call crowd investigation, to conduct due diligence and launch investigations that are beyond the reach of over stretched police forces and other public service agencies, whose numbers are set to decrease further in the years ahead.

The idea sounds simple enough, but as anyone who has tried to source three quotes from a good electrician will know, accredited people are hard to find and the risk of getting your wires crossed can be costly and dangerous. When we’re looking for an expert, we want someone who is not only skilled and available at a fair price; we want them to be trustworthy!

Ideally, an expert will be recommended by someone who knows them and takes some responsibility for the quality of their work. Recent research from the FAP found that victims of fraud seeking to recover losses through the civil courts may be able to source a list of people and firms purporting to specialise in civil recovery. However, it is far more difficult to identify who on that list has the appropriate experience to assist them.

Professional bodies that regulate or seek to raise standards within the legal, accountancy and investigation community will hopefully support the FAP’s recommendation to create a public database of professionals with knowledge and experience of civil recovery. A database of this kind will make it easier for citizens to identify those who have the right skills to assist in fighting fraud, as well as provide a useful resource for crowd investigations.

Transforming the B team into the A team isn’t just about knowing the players’s abilities. There needs to be a first class manager and a system in place to ensure that the team gives their best performance every single time. To make crowd investigation work, this database of professionals and their assignments needs to be managed and supported by a robust technological solution that can manage multiple assignments involving a number of people.

Organisations that engage a large workforce on multiple tasks know the value of excellent people and process management. The British police service is a world leader in putting the right people in the right place to fight crime before it occurs and in responding to multiple incidents as they unfold. Their success is achieved by assembling talented people and managing their deployment in an effective manner.

To make crowdsourcing an effective tool for investigation, a platform is required that can manage groups of people carrying out multiple assignments. The finest example of this form of people and project management I have ever seen, is at Today Translations, the international business services and translation agency headquartered in the City of London. Last year, I was commissioned to review their ISO accredited workflow systems as part of their security assurance programme and was astonished by their level of innovation and capability.

In the past decade, this small firm has invested heavily into researching and developing a software platform that can project manage multiple assignments for a global network of over 2,600 expert linguists and advisers. Their system is secure and unique in so far as it enables project managers and account directors at Today Translations to coordinate every aspect of an assignment with unparalleled detail. The process manages quotations, bookings and invoicing and integrates seamlessly with contact management systems to create a near paperless office! Best of all, their model incorporates rules, continuous assessment and automated scoring of work to ensure the right people are assigned to the right task, at the best price, while maintaining the highest standards.

Building a project/case management system along these lines to support crowd investigation assignments and using a database of suitably qualified fraud investigation professionals would be a powerful new force in the fight against fraud. Of course, none of this could ever replace the full force of the law and on occasions may not be able to provide assistance beyond that offered by the authorities.

But in an age where few can afford to lose money to criminals and more are seeing the value of conducting due diligence before making a major investment, there could be a new friend in the crowd.

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