Fraud is a crisis within a crisis
Written by Robert O'Leary & Scott Johnson
In times of distress, or hardship, we’re told to “look for the helpers.” As Fred Rogers once explained, in “scary” times we can feel calmed and reassured because there will always be “people who are helping.” These people are the heroes or protagonists. We know this to be true of our frontline healthcare and essential workers, the heroes, and we take comfort in their selfless efforts and sacrifices.
Unfortunately, in times of distress or hardship, it’s also essential to look for the bad actors, fraud-committers, and hackers, the antagonists—the individuals and even organizations who use the chaos generated by a global pandemic as cover to act maliciously and for personal gain.
In fact, as of late last week, the US Federal Trade Commission had received over 90,000 COVID-19-related complaints of fraud, unwanted calls, and identity theft by these antagonists.
When we examine the human costs of catastrophes like the COVID-19 global pandemic, we know that the ripple effects are many. Lives are lost, jobs are affected, economies falter, and people and businesses all over the world are stressed and, as a result, vulnerable. With our background as investigators, we know these effects all too well and dread the fraud of all kinds that we on investigative teams anticipate happening.
APPROACHING FRAUD INVESTIGATIONS WITH CARES
The myriad complexities of solving a health pandemic and restarting the world economy during that pandemic are matched only by the sheer volume and types of fraud, misuse, and abuses perpetrated by criminals. They include contractor fraud, healthcare fraud, quality control fraud, cybersecurity fraud, money laundering, market manipulation, timecard fraud, sensitive data abuse, and paycheck protection fraud, among others.
The Coronavirus Preparedness and Response Supplemental Appropriations (CARES) Act of 2020 is the cornerstone relief package for Americans, providing economic assistance and provisions for preserving jobs and businesses and essentially injecting the United States economy with about $2 trillion. With this enormous sum comes the extremely heightened probability of fraud, forgery, data manipulation, and scamming individuals using phishing and ransomware. There’s a lot more money in circulation, and criminals want an unearned piece of it.
Having reviewed relevant sections of the CARES document related to the Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery’s office, there are two primary areas where the strengths of Nuix can be brought to bear. Those areas focus on:
- Providing a tool to investigate cybercrime arising from fraud and abuse of the law
- Assisting the Committee with the tasks centered on a unified oversight and management of expenditures and programs under the Act.
Whether it’s a one-man investigation or a complex, multi-disciplinary team case, the areas of concentration as described in the CARES Act would be enabled for investigators when the investigation, review, and audit tools are integrated into a single platform. Whether it’s from the perspective of the investigative teams reviewing all case evidence, regardless of type, or the auditors reviewing documents for suitability, appropriateness, and relevance regarding the statute, these teams of protagonists investigating COVID-19 fraud, waste, and abuse could utilize the same set of tools.
INVESTIGATING FRAUD AND ABUSE OF THE LAW—FROM ANYWHERE
The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery (SIGPR) is a position recently created as part of the CARES Act, specifically to head up a task force that targets financial crimes and abuse related to coronavirus relief.
Additionally, in mid-April, the US Department of Justice mandated every US Attorney General office in the United States to create a COVID-19 criminal activity task force. This means that 93 task forces, spread over every state in America, need the ability to collaborate across state lines as well as with the DOJ, SIGPR, and other federal offices. Let’s not forget, too, that a team working a given case can include staff working remotely.
It just so happens that Nuix Investigate® can reside on a server that’s reachable by all team members, so teams can be comprised of specialists that are tens, hundreds, or even thousands of miles away from the rest of the team.
Investigators and analysts within, related to, and assisting this team can perform investigations more efficiently, and arrive at case outcomes more quickly, when they have access to software that brings together the individual efforts of a multi-disciplinary team, allowing each team member to build off the successes of the other and aggregate the results into a single environment, while being responsible for only their part of the puzzle. Investigative teams investigating mountains of tips and complaints shouldn’t also be burdened by blurred lines around roles and responsibilities.
A TOOL FOR UNIFIED OVERSIGHT, MANAGEMENT, AND EFFECTIVE EXPENDITURE
The resources and labor associated with combatting COVID-related fraud, abuses, and misuse are massive in scale and cost—one more ripple caused by the proverbial pandemic pebble in the world’s pond.
It’s crucial for CARES-associated committees to have clear insight into the activities of task forces and their investigators. Batched evidence review, speed to results, and narrowed team roles all contribute to lower overall costs, and with the single-platform approach, investigation managers, committee leaders, and auditors get a view of cases where they’re being investigated, as they’re being investigated.
Transparency keeps everyone out of the dark.
Nuix Investigate, as part of the Nuix investigation solution platform, is capable of batched review and role administration, as well as robust reporting. Because Nuix Investigate administrators can also segregate what data a team member can view, specialists or even non-LE contractors can be utilized without risking accidental case data exposure. This saves time and money in training—targeting data review to only those who can make sense of it—as well as the cost-savings of requiring fewer different software licenses.
HELPERS AND CARES
Nuix Workstation and Nuix Investigate form a powerful solution to the requirements posed by the CARES Act for the SIGPR. Helpers take many forms, and as humankind perseveres through an unprecedented time in history, Nuix provides the protagonists with the tools to succeed.
If you’d like to read more about fraud response during COVID, please download our recent white paper, Investigating Fraud in COVID-19 Government Programs, or contact us to discuss the issue with one of our team’s experts.