Uncover The Truth

Posted on Monday, May 22, 2017

When it comes to uncovering the truth and interviewing suspects, the job is best left to trained professionals, such as forensic accountants and attorneys,who have the investigative and interviewing skills to follow the footprints many criminals leave behind.

Interviews are a key element of forensic investigations, and the individuals questioned can include witnesses, people with information about the crime and, of course, the primary suspect.

But before the interviews, forensic accountants gather evidence, determine who to interview, organize the structure of the meeting and its location, as well as determine the content and types of questions to ask.

In addition, a forensic interviewer is aware of the legal pitfalls surrounding these kinds of interviews and thus can help avoid putting your company at risk for charges of discrimination or harassment. Care must be taken to comply with federal and state laws and not to open a company up to liability.

Interviewers all have different styles, depending on their personalities and education. But regardless of style, the most successful forensic interviews have five common elements:

1. Preparation Investigators generally set aside a significant amount of time to prepare for interviews. Forensic accountants do not rush into the process. Although companies may want results immediately, interviewers need this time to determine what they plan to accomplish, anticipate obstacles and resistance, and organize the interview from the opening comments through the closing strategy.

During the preparation, forensic consultants:

Build a team that may comprise other forensic experts, different departments of a company, and a senior executive or legal counsel.
Gather as much background information as possible from files, information systems and other sources.
Determine the areas they want to cover.
Design the specific questions they need to ask.
Decide who should conduct the interview and whether to allow observers.
Learn as much as possible about the subjects of the interviews.
Organize the documents to present to the subjects.

2. Questions The types of questions interviewers ask depends largely on the crime and whether the subject is a witness, individual with information, or the prime suspect.

Trained interviewers design questions that elicit the best possible information. They base the questions on what they want to get out of the meeting and what they know about the background of the interviewee.

Questions generally fall under four classifications: open, closed, confirmatory, and challenging. Interviews typically start with broad questions such as "Tell me about..." and then progress to specific inquiries of who, what, where, when, why and how.

Skilled interviewers do not generally ask questions for which they know the answers and they avoid using scripts or lists of questions, which can inhibit free-flowing dialogue. If an interviewer agrees to let a company representative sit in on the questioning, that person will likely be asked to remain silent.

3. Active Listening Even after extensive preparation, interviews rarely go as planned but forensic accountants are ready to deal with all unforeseen possibilities. By listening actively during the meeting, the interviewer is prepared to pursue unexpected lines of questioning that can help further or broaden the investigation. This is especially true at the beginning of a complex investigation involving numerous suspects. Trained interviewers also look for non-verbal behaviors or body language that can indicate deception.

4. Note Taking Taking copious notes interrupts the flow of a discussion. The more time spent writing, the less time available for the interviewee to talk. Pauses also allow the suspect more time to prepare answers. Not surprisingly, suspects may also be reluctant to provide information if they observe each and every word being written on a legal pad. Experienced interviewers have techniques for handling these challenges.

5. Keeping Control Interviews with fraud suspects are often tense, but trained investigators know how to maintain control in a situation where the interviewee may become angry or highly emotional.

A well-organized and professional questioning session can separate the innocent from the guilty because a trained interviewer's expertise and manner can put innocent people at ease and make criminals increasingly anxious.

Posted in Fraud & Forensics Group

Disclaimer: The information contained in Dulin, Ward & DeWald’s blog is provided for general educational purposes only and should not be construed as financial or legal advice on any subject matter. Before taking any action based on this information, we strongly encourage you to consult competent legal, accounting or other professional advice about your specific situation. Questions on blog posts may be submitted to your DWD representative.

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