Saturday, April 25, 2020

Are body movements a valid lie detector?

By Greg Wright
Certified Fraud Examiner
Certified Financial Planner
National Speaker

“Kinesics,” is the study of human movement as culturally patterned visual communicationAnthropologist Ray Birdwhistell coined the term “kinesis,” as a positive alternative to "non-verbal communication" as the field was more usually known.  He did not like the term "body language."

According to Birdwell’s research, "Body movements are culturally patterned rather than universal." 

If body movements are cultural and not universal, as Birdwhistell maintains, how can it then be used by law enforcement and investigators to indicate if the subject is telling the truth or lying?

A good question.

How about Gaze Aversion?  Is it a valid indicator of someone not being truthful?

According to researchers, Black people who are entirely innocent are less likely to look police in the eye than Black people who are criminals.  White people suspected of a crime spend the most time out of all ethnic-racial groups, looking at the police officer in the eye. 

Most police officers believe the most critical physical demeanor cue is eye contact.  The Reid Technique's training manual is the most widely used guide for law enforcement officers, and almost all fraud investigator interview technique trainers have been trained using the Reid Technique training tools.

Because of this training - significantly - nearly all police officers (over 80%) believe that, when you are interviewing individuals, those who are lying look away – are gaze averse - and truthful people maintain eye contact. 

If you use "gaze aversion" as a cue to interpret an individual's credibility, you are going to be a lot more suspicious of Black folks than White folks.  And, you are going to be most suspicious of innocent Black Americans.  Wow!

How about “smiling” or “halting speech.”

A variation of expression may be smiling or halting speech.  Halting speech is someone speaking slowly and with a lot of hesitation.

A rule of thumb reinforced by training and relied upon by many law enforcement interviewers is that subjects who frequently smile is a sign of insincerity.  However, according to researchers, individuals that smile the most are innocent African-Americans, and those that smile the least are Hispanic suspects.  African-Americans speak fluidly, and Hispanics may stammer and nervously stop and start.  If you are a copy unfamiliar with Black or Hispanic individuals, you might “detain” Blacks for smiling too much and detain Hispanics for halting speech.

How about hand gestures?

Again, law enforcement officers are trained to believe that guilty suspects’ hand gestures, shrugs, grooming, protective movement, etc. are a pattern indicating guilt.  “Be sure to watch the hands,” we are told in law enforcement training manuals.

Below is a summary of the hand gestures research conducted by Prof. Richard Johnson, a noted criminologist.

Hand gestures per minute
Average time in seconds
African-American - innocent
African American - suspect
White - innocent
White -suspect
Hispanic - innocent
Hispanic - suspect

A conclusion one can reach is that people vary greatly when or how long they look you in the eye, or if they smile, how fluidly they talk, or the kind and rate of their hand gestures.  None of these "behavior symptoms," in police interviewer parlance, or, to use the language of poker, are considered to be a "tell" and predict the truth or a lie. 

Where does this leave us? 

Is gaze aversion, smiling, halting speech, or hand gestures predictive of the truth or a lie?  Apparently, any of these may be judged by law enforcement officers as “probable cause” and the basis to detain someone.  Likewise, fraud investigators might label the interviewee as “not creditable.”

Have most law enforcement officers and fraud investigators been trained incorrectly about body language?

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Mehrabian's 7% Rule

By Greg Wright
Certified Fraud Examiner
Certified Financial Planner
National Speaker

Sometimes, when searching for the truth, we jump at a promising shortcut.  The Mehrabian 7-33-55  rule was, for many, that shortcut.  But, the understanding of many is incorrect. 
The rule is not a lie detector.
When I ask an audience to yell out, "What do you think is more important, verbal or nonverbal behavior?", the audience will universally yell out "body language."
This important rule is that communication is only 7 percent verbal and 93 percent non-verbal.
Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of California is credited for this rule.  Although he originally trained as an engineer, he is best known for his research on the relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages. 
His two research studies developed the 7-38-55 Rule of Personal Communication. In communication, according to the research, a speaker's words are only a fraction of his efforts. The pitch and tone of his voice, the speed and rhythm of the spoken word, and the pauses between those words express more than what is being communicated by words alone. 
Do words alone only account for 7% of communication?
Be careful. 
Mehrabian said, "Please note that this and other equations regarding (the) relative importance of verbal and nonverbal messages were derived from experiments dealing with communications of feelings and attitudes." "Unless a communicator is talking about their feelings or attitudes, these equations are not applicable."
Except for feelings & attitudes, the Mehrabian's 7% rule is not a lie detector.
The transcribed words of a witness or suspect are often more useful in determining the true facts of an event than a video recording of the statement.  Body language will often sidetrack you from the truth. You need to focus on the words. 
More on that later.  I have conducted hundreds of interviews of witnesses and fraud suspects.

Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Wash Checks

By Greg Wright
Certified Fraud Examiner 
Certified Financial Planner
National Speaker

Mail thieves use a process called check washing to erase the ink on a check by using common household chemicals.  They then re-write the check sometimes in amounts far more than the original check was written.

The actual process of washing a check is relatively simple and can be accomplished with basic solvents you have around your home such as acetone or rubbing alcohol.

A few weeks ago, I asked a middle-age, middle-income Hamilton County audience to complete a “theft risk survey.”  Over half said that they mailed check payments from their home mailbox – 56% to be more precise.

Never, never post outgoing mail in the mailbox outside your home.  Never! When you put that red flag up, it is an invitation to a fraudster to steal your check, wash out the payee and substitute their name. 

Various steps can be taken by the writer of the check to reduce the possibility of falling victim to check washing. The most important is to mail check payments by placing them in secured big blue USPS mailboxes.  Also, you can use secure ink dispensed from a gel, rollerball, or fountain pen, filling in all lines on the check.   Always carefully scrutiny your bank statements.

If you need a speaker for your group, contact me.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

Lost Driver’s License Leads to Wrongful Arrest

By Greg Wright
Certified Fraud Examiner 
Certified Financial Planner
National Speaker

Kristen Parr is out of jail after spending four days behind bars in Hancock County for a crime she didn't commit. 

Someone used her ID to test drive a car, and when the car wasn't returned, a warrant was issued for Parr's arrest.  She was arrested at her home and was taken into custody on a Thursday.  Because the county offices were closed the very next day for a county festival, Parr wasn't able to see the judge until Monday morning.  

She spent four days in jail for a crime she did not commit.

As explained in my Greg’s Talk titled “Electronic Home Invasion,” your identity can be stolen and an arrest warrant issued.  You could experience the same four days in jail. 

Also, as I suggested in this blog this past July 24, 2019, do not let anyone photocopy your driver’s license.  Your driver’s license in the hands of a fraudster is more dangerous than them having your Social Security number. 
If you have your identity stolen, file a police report, and keep a copy with you at all times.  

If you let someone copy your driver’s license and they use it for nefarious purposes, it becomes much more difficult to prove your innocence.  Attend one of Greg’s Talks to learn how to protect your identity. Many don't know that 30 % of SSNs have been compromised.  Check yours out with a PI or CFE.  

Parr says she left her wallet in February while celebrating her birthday at Circle Center Mall. After she realized she left it there, she returned, but it was not there.  She then filed a police report with IMPD and obtained a new driver’s license. 

After four days in jail, all charges against Parr were dropped by the Greenfield police.  They have video from the car dealer and are still looking for the person who used Parr's ID to test drive the car. 

The mug shot was a screengrab from RTV6.  

Tuesday, October 8, 2019

Flipping Houses

By Greg Wright
Certified Fraud Examiner & Certified Financial Planner

“Get rich quick by using other people’s money to flip houses” seminars seemed too good to be true? Well, it turns out, according to the FTC, they may be too good to be true.

The Federal Trade Commission is charging one company with lying to consumers to convince them to attend the company’s supposedly free real estate seminars. 

The company promised to give away the secrets to making money flipping houses at the event, but actually, they charged thousands of dollars for the “secrets.”

The “free” real estate claims that attendees can learn how to flip houses to make money. However, the FTC claim is that this Utah operation is a scam, with the company allegedly using “deceptive promises of big profits to lure consumers into real estate seminars costing thousands of dollars.”

The FTC claims that one company uses celebrities in its advertisements to lend credibility to the seminars, including endorsements from HGTV’s “Flip or Flop,” and Dave Seymour from A&E’s “Flipping Boston.”  The three-day workshop that they are likely to earn thousands of dollars in profit, often with little risk, time or effort, regardless of their credit history.  Sign me up!

According to the FTC, the ads convinced consumers to attend free events that would teach consumers how to make large profits by flipping “using other people’s money.”  However, the FTC claims that the “free” seminar is actually a sales presentation for a three-day workshop that cost as much as $2,000.
One firm, according to the FTC, says “It backs up these representations with a money-back guarantee – consumers who do not make ‘a minimum of three times’ the price of the three-day workshop within six months will receive their money back.” The seminar will “teach them everything they need to know to make substantial income from real estate.”

However, in the FTC complaint, the three-day workshop doesn’t stop the fraudsters from separating even more money from the shill. The three-day workshop is “merely a beginner course,” then the fraudsters upsell gullible consumers additional products and services that can cost as much as $41,297.  

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Bill O’Reilly’s New Gig

By Greg Wright
Certified Fraud Examiner & National Speaker

It appears that Bill O’Reilly has a new job selling internet security services.  Is this service needed today?  Maybe Bill needs the money.

"I saw this crime firsthand when a close friend had his home's title stolen by online thieves. I was shocked how easy this crime is. The scammers found the online title to his home, forged home sale documents, and refiled his home under an alias…I encourage all homeowners to get Home Title Lock.” -- Bill O’Reilly

The implied promise is that $14.99 per month paid to Home Title Lock, will protect your home.  We don’t know about Bill’s cut. I’ve asked about his compensation; but, have not had a response.

This type of fraud has been around for a long time. There was an FBI warning about it as far back as 2008; but, experts in internet security I contacted haven't heard anything recently to indicate that it's a current problem. 

Everybody should realize that their personal information has already been stolen.  Monitor your data, freezing all of your credit accounts, and adding multi-factor authentication can reduce the risk considerably. These days, because almost every data is being stored digitally and the amount of data being collected and stored is growing exponentially, the risks of a data breach are greater than ever. Until we demand better security and actually send people to prison when they (or their company) allow our personal data to be stolen, internet frauds will only continue. 

If you have a credit freezes in place and use a credit monitoring service, it makes it  difficult for a fraudster to take out loans in a person’s name even with forged documents. It seems to me that the a better use of your financial resources would be to have the basic internet security toolbox and avoid risky behavior including banking online.

The value of the “home title lock” service seems dubious to me.  Here is their website.  Talk it over with your internet advisor. See

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Driver's License Fraud

By Greg Wright
Certified Fraud Examiner & National Speaker

Recently, I visited a dentist recommended by a friend.  After filling out the standard paperwork, the receptionist asked to see my driver’s license.  She was getting ready to scan it into the office system when I told her that I did not want her to copy it.  She said that it was their policy.  I said that she could look at it to verify my identity, but she was not to copy it because it could lead to identity theft.  Further, since I was a cash-paying customer, and dental insurance was not involved, the dental practice had no obligation to copy it.  She called the practice manager into the conversation.  I refused to budge, and the dentist refused to budge.  I left and went back to my old dentist. 
In my opinion, you should not allow (never allow) your driver’s license to be copied or the DL number to be recorded by anyone other than law enforcement or events surrounding a traffic accident. You might be required to prove your identity, and that is okay to show it to appropriate individuals.
The really important information on your driver’s license is the ID number itself. With that number, someone could write a check using a facsimile of your check, or (seriously) give that number to law enforcement at the time of their traffic incident while claiming that they don’t have the physical card with them.
Criminal identity theft might occur when a fraudster has an incident with law enforcement - may be a traffic violation or a DUI felony - and someone claims to be you. They might leave you with unpaid parking tickets, a court date that you know nothing about, or an outstanding warrant for your arrest. Once “you” fail to pay the ticket or fail to appear in court, your real problems begin.  You could find yourself in county lockup making new friends.
If you file your taxes electronically, you might be asked for your driver’s license number so the IRS can verify that you are actually you.  Someone using your driver’s license number could spend your tax refund.  Try getting that corrected.
Protect your driver’s license.  In some ways, it is more important than your Social Security number.
Note: the driver's license shown above is a sample furnished by the BMV.