Questions to Ask at the Start of a Fraud Investigation

In order to properly plan a fraud investigation, a fraud examiner needs to be able to ask good questions that extract valuable information about what needs to be done. The specific questions vary with each investigation, but the following are some basic areas that an investigator should strongly consider exploring.

What happened?

  • How did this situation come to light?
  • Who was involved with the discovery?
  • Who is aware that a potential fraud occurred?

Evidence

  • What evidence has already been found?
  • How conclusive is it?
  • Are there multiple pieces of evidence?
  • Might there be other easily discoverable pieces of evidence?
  • How much does the evidence tell us about the methods of fraud and the parties involved?

Who is suspected?

  • Who is the primary suspect?
  • At what level is this person employed?
  • Is she or he still employed with the company?
  • Has the employee been suspended or terminated?
  • Will the results of our investigation impact the employee’s future with the organization?
  • Who else do you think might be involved?
  • Who else could be involved simply based on their access and opportunity to commit fraud?
  • Do you think any employees were intimidated into participating in or facilitating the fraud?
  • Is anyone suspected of helping to cover up the fraud?

Are outside parties involved?

  • Does this fraud involve a vendor, a customer, or other outside party with which the company does business?
  • What do we know about their involvement?
  • Is their involvement limited to a single person, or does it extend to multiple parties or the company as a whole?
  • Will they cooperate with our investigation?
  • Do they have documentation that we might need?

Key players

  • Who can explain the processes in the affected department or division?
  • How are roles assigned in the department or division?
  • Who is supervising?
  • Who has critical information for us?
  • Who can help gather information and documentation?
  • Who will we report to?
  • Who else needs to be apprised of our progress?

Who knows?

  • Who is aware that a potential fraud has taken place?
  • Who needs to be informed (e.g., upper management, insurance carrier, board of directors, investors, bank, other interested parties)?

Secrecy

  • Should we keep the fact that an investigation is being started quiet?
  • Should only certain people know?
  • Should work be performed off-site to minimize our impact on the organization?
  • Is it necessary to be on-site for access to computers, documents, or key people?
  • Will we be widely known as fraud investigators, or will we use a less threatening title like auditors?

Data and documentation

  • When can we begin to receive documentation?
  • What is available to us?
  • What format is it in (digital versus hard copy)?
  • What organizations have information that we may need (e.g., banks, investment firms, vendors)?
  • How will we go about getting the information?
  • Can an employee help gather documentation?
  • Will we need to get signed authorizations to get information from outside parties?
  • Do your employees need help identifying what we will need for the investigation?

What has already happened?

  • Has management already tried to start its own investigation?
  • What have they examined?
  • Is the integrity of any evidence compromised?

Investigation goals

  • What is our scope of work?
  • What questions do you want answered?
  • What level of certainty and precision do you want?
  • Who will receive our report?
  • What will our report be used for (e.g., civil litigation, criminal prosecution, insurance recovery)?
  • Are you interested in remediation after the investigation ends?
  • Would you like our recommendations for techniques and controls to prevent fraud in the future?

Every investigation is different and there are a multitude of questions that will be asked. But these are some basic questions that will help get the investigation started in the right direction.

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