• Kara Hipps

Private Investigator + Banks = Liaison with Law Enforcement

Updated: May 1, 2018

Private Investigators aren't used enough when it comes to bank fraud. With Law Enforcement as overwhelmed as it is, fraud cases can get pushed to the side leaving the victims feeling lost and frustrated.

Prior to opening my private investigation business, I was in law enforcement for over six years. After 2 years on the road, I was transferred to the Criminal Investigation Division (CID). During my interview for CID, I was asked if I wanted people crimes or financial crimes. This was easy for me because I am a nerd; I chose financial crimes.

There was not a financial crimes investigator prior to me, so I had to teach myself how to handle a fraud case from beginning to end. I took as many classes on the subject as my department would allow and networked with other fraud investigators from other agencies who taught me a lot.

Naturally, I worked closely with Corporate Security Officers from banks; at least the smaller local branches. It was difficult to develop a working relationship with the bigger banks because I often got a different person each time I called.

In speaking with these Corporate Security Officers, I heard time and time again that a lot of agencies were not helpful when the Corporate Security Officers reached out to them for a substantial loss incurred by the bank.

The bank is almost always at a loss because the money is put back in the customer’s account making the bank the victim. Guess who pays for these losses when the culprit is not held responsible? Everyone who has a bank account. However, law enforcement is not totally to blame for this disconnect.

According to the Federal Trade Commission's website: The data book includes complaints from 2.68 million consumers, a decrease from 2016 when 2.98 million consumers submitted reports about fraud, identity theft and other types of consumer concerns. Despite this, consumers reported losing a total of $905 million to fraud in 2017 -- $63 million more than in 2016.

Why is There a Disconnect between Banks and Law Enforcement When it comes to Fraud Cases?

Working a financial case is tedious and time consuming making them difficult for an agency to work, especially if they are shorthanded. Additionally, more serious crimes and violent crimes take precedence over a financial case. Although financial crimes aren’t violent, the criminals are not stealing money to donate to charity. They are stealing to support a drug habit or to help finance gang activity.

I won’t bore you with the details of the steps involved in working a financial fraud case, but a case can take up to 30 days (sometimes longer) and a lot of paperwork depending on the bank and where the fraud occurred.

Another issue with working fraud cases from law enforcement’s standpoint is jurisdiction. Per OCGA 19-9-125.1, a fraud victim can file a police report either with their local law enforcement or where the fraud occurred. If the victim files with their local agency, the detective does the paperwork and invests a lot of time only to learn the crime occurred in another county, city, or State. The detective must forward everything to the appropriate jurisdiction and there is no guarantee that agency will investigate further.

How to Fix the Disconnect.

A private investigator can prove to be beneficial when working as a liaison between financial institutions and law enforcement. What more would a detective want… other than not getting a financial case? Getting a financial case that has already been investigated.

A private investigator can determine the appropriate jurisdiction so that a report is filed directly to that agency. This will cut down on the number of fraud cases that get filed with a local jurisdiction versus the jurisdiction in which the crime occurred.

A private investigator can interview witnesses and try to identify the suspect which will save time for the already overwhelmed detectives. In the event an identification is made, all that's left for the detective to do is confirm the identification and obtain a warrant.

With the basic understanding of how to construct a criminal case file, a private investigator will assist in recouping stolen money for the banks and decrease the amount of time detectives spend on fraud.

Will this fix all the issues? Probably not, but it will help. It will increase the number of fraud cases detectives work. It will save investigation time for detectives. It will increase the likelihood that the criminals are caught and forced to pay restitution. And in the long run, it will save consumers, like you and I, money.

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