Can You Spot a Fraud?

By Traci Brown

There are too many cases of financial fraud these days to report. Much of it is online but much of it happens right in front of your eyes, in person, by people who seem trustworthy on the surface. Think Bernie Madoff.

Knowing what’s behind the polish of the fancy suit or P&L is vital to protect you, your bank, and your customers. Is the guy in the suit who walked in to apply for a credit card really who he says he is? What about that priest wanting to open an account with a cashier’s check?

Your job is to equip your sales staff for success. They’re your revenue generators—but in the end you want them to make the right sale. And you want customers and potential customers to know that they are safe with your bank.

Your job is also to safeguard your bank’s reputation. Customers want to do business with a bank that doesn’t allow fraud, but not just headline grabbing cyber fraud. They want to know that their money is safe from in-person, old school fraud too. And you need a well-informed sales staff to beat the crooks brazen enough to come in your bank posing as someone else—or even the business owner who’s embellishing his accounting.

In this digital era, it’s easy for banks to lose the personal touch necessary to detect the bad guys. Working within compliance guidelines, a friendly yet fraud-busting sales staff can be a vital line of defense.

Using body language to expose key facts and qualities about anyone around you can be the difference between making money and handing another account to your fraud department. But you’ve got to look for the tiny signs hidden in plain sight. People can seem confident and trustworthy on the surface but when you know what to look for, you may unmask deception or fear.

A recent report by Team Co, a hedge fund research company, correlated the success or failure of hedge funds to the behavioral analysis of key leaders at the fund.

A similar behavioral analysis of anyone you’re considering  (or already do) work with will give you the complete picture—and provide supplemental,  possibly more accurate info on your exposure,  much more than a prospectus, loan application or resume will.

Here’s what to look for:

A false vs genuine smile. Genuine smiles always enroll the eyes.  Look for crows’ feet. For example, if a business owner who says, “This is a project we’re excited about,” and you see crows’ feet, you know it’s genuine. If you don’t see the crow’s feet, beware. Confidence is being overstated. So do more research.  Put the deal on hold till you find that piece of info being concealed. He is likely more interested in getting the money than the project he says he needs the money for. Prospects for the loan going bad are higher than you want them to be.

Similarly, notice when someone covers his or her mouth with their hand. It looks natural but often indicates that the next thing they say is false. So if you ask, “Why did you leave your last position’ and see them cover their mouth as they pause quickly to think and then say, “I had outgrown the position,” this isn’t what they know to be true. They’re holding back information. Be sure to dig deeper with your questions to find the truth. A quick response to dig deeper can be as simple as, “It seems like you’ve got more to say. Want to expand on that?”

Be careful about covert domination. Do they interrupt you frequently? Are they making themselves big and taking up lots of space with their arms and legs? Are they stone faced? These are hot spots that when further questioned and investigated can reveal a fraud.

Do they exhibit an increased eye blink rate when it comes to the topic of a certain investment or specific question about their job history—or even their family? This is a tell-tale sign of anxiety, which can often coincide with a lie.

Look for a significant shift in baseline behavior when the conversation turns the most pertinent info. Do people go from generally still to fidgety? Are they suddenly struggling to find the right words?  Do answers to simple questions seem to stump them?  All of these are signs of lying or identity theft that you can detect when you pay attention. Miss the signs and you could be in for the exact experience banks work so hard to guard against—loss.

The Bottom Line

That personal touch customers come to your bank for can also be your first line of defense against fraud. While you can’t accept or deny a customer’s business based on their body language, you can get a deeper insight into who you’re dealing with, and what further questions you should be asking. A sales staff that looks for just a few simple tells can provide that extra level of safety that benefits your bank, its customers, and its reputation. They’ll make the right sale and build the bottom line.

Traci Brown is a Body Language Expert, keynote speaker and author of Body Language Confidential and Persuasion Point. She’s a frequent guest on TV interpreting the body language of criminals and politicians. Mrs. Brown unmasks the truth in legal cases as a consultant.