Book Review: How to Become a World Class Investigator

“How to Become a World Class Investigator” is not a book that will appeal to every reader, but the topics it covers and the approach it takes are valuable to any person interested in fighting fraud.

Cross-disciplinary learning is valuable

Most of the readers of about-fraud.dream.press come from the world of e-commerce and card-not-present (CNP) fraud prevention, but our site also covers numerous other types of fraud online. We also have been increasing our coverage of different type of fraud investigations that are longer in duration and more open-ended than straightforward CNP transaction review. The reason for doing so is simple: There is a lot of overlap between the tools and techniques that are used in CNP fraud review and those that are and can be used as part of larger in-depth investigations. Whether the topic is insurance fraud, counterfeit branded merchandise or money laundering, a lot of tools and techniques can be applied to the entire problem set.

For readers from any field of fraud prevention, we recommend that you take a look at these different types of articles, including this book review. They are intended to help inspire you to adopt tools and techniques from related fields that may make you better at your own narrowly defined field of interest. Moreover, in today’s age of the gig economy and generally unstable employment in most professions, many of you at one point or another may find this cross-disciplinary approach quite useful. Know the jobs and positions you can pivot to and apply to using your relevant experience as a bridgehead into another profession that still retains your focus and interest in fighting fraud.

Meet the real person behind the investigator

Julie Clegg, the author of “How to Become a World Class Investigator,” is probably best known for her role as an online intelligence expert and one of the professional “hunters” on the hit U.K. TV show “Hunted.” Most people familiar with the Channel 4 TV show, and even those who aren’t, will probably find interesting the beginning of the book’s exposition of how Clegg went from being the victim of a serious crime to becoming a professional investigator. This personal introduction to the making of an investigator, along with some relevant personal asides throughout the book, are effective in drawing in the reader. The hard-charging and cynical police detective or taciturn “private eye” long ago became overworn cliches. It’s more interesting – especially for readers interested in careers in fighting fraud – to learn about the individuals behind the facade and how and why they carry the image that they have among the general public.

One particularly useful piece of advice the book imparts to new and aspiring investigators is the need to specialize in specific type of investigations that require different skill-sets and aptitudes. “Today, with rapidly evolving technology, you cannot master everything,” says Clegg. She is too right, not only when it comes to individuals but also when it comes to specific technological solutions and platforms.

Good guys need to specialize, cooperate

Clegg helps the reader out by dividing investigations into four basic categories or themes: financial crime, offenses against persons, corporate and large-scale investigations. Each of these categories requires different expert knowledge and Clegg recommends that those working investigations in areas that require specialized knowledge they lack seek to team up with other investigators who possess those skills rather than going lone wolf and trying to figure it all out as they go along. It’s a solution that will help everyone, including the individual investigators and their employer.

Just like in CNP fraud, criminals involved in technically or technologically complex crimes often have no problem cooperating with other experienced criminals to get the job done. Unfortunately, as Clegg proves with real-world examples in her book, often the good guys are much slower to work together and share their expertise. The end-result is the bad guys win or at least continue to offend much longer than they would if the people fighting them just talked to each other.

All personalities/aptitudes required

Beyond the different categories of investigations, Clegg points to three separate types of skills that pretty much all investigators today need to utilize to some degree to do their job well. These skills involve expert or near-expert knowledge of human psychology, interpersonal relations and technology.

Different people differ in which of these three skills they are better at, but rarely is someone world-class in all three areas. That is why all types of investigators are needed and cooperation on complex cases is crucial. If you don’t know how to assess people’s motivations and address the interests and emotions of all the different parties involved in investigations, you are quickly going to find yourself in sticky situations with clients, law enforcement and/or people you meet as part of your job. If you aren’t a good listener and questioner, you cannot properly communicate with people to get the right information to succeed in your investigations.

Lastly, in today’s day and age, technology is advancing at a furious pace and can make or break investigations both in terms of the quality of information it can uncover and  the speed with which it does so. If you don’t know how to properly search through open source intelligence including public databases, social media and more you are going to waste months on what could take days and days on what could take hours. If you don’t know how IT in corporations, banks and other complex systems that run the modern world work, you are missing a huge chunk of crime committed in the cyber age. Most crimes today involve some element of online networks. If you aren’t tech savvy, work with someone who is.

Clegg’s message is one that all investigators should take to heart: Don’t worry about knowing everything, just figure out what you don’t know and team up with someone who fills in your gaps.

Self-help guide for investigators

One choice that defines Clegg’s book, is her self-improvement approach to teaching others to become better investigators. Personally, I do not like self-help books, so I found this approach a bit tedious. She divides up a career and lifestyle choice into a series of small, organized checklists with an end-goal of becoming a world-class investigator.

For a lot people in this field, I don’t think they go into it with a clear end-goal in mind. They simply enter related professions, such as law enforcement, and discover they are good at and enjoy the challenge behind deep investigative work. I don’t think the book’s style will go over well with many of these people. They are mostly intuitive types. They know what they like doing and what works for them and what doesn’t. They don’t need to articulate and externalize regular to-do lists to know what they need to be doing at any given moment. They just do it.

However, Clegg’s style of writing probably will appeal to a wider audience that doesn’t usually consider a career as an investigator. In particular, her self-improvement and more emotionally in tune approach may help draw in more talented women to this predominately male profession (as well as some men not typically drawn into these areas). I  may not be drawn to self-improvement books, but I know a fair share of type A women who enjoy reading these books and spend a good deal of time focused on the emotional aspects of their interpersonal relationships.

Some of these women would make good investigators but none have ever considered the option because the profession has not been presented to them in a way that speaks to them. They like to make detailed life plans and carefully examine the choices on their career list by weighing pros and cons. It certainly doesn’t make them bad at the jobs they end up choosing, and it probably wouldn’t make them worse at fighting fraud. It just makes them different from the people the field typically attracts. For that point alone, this book was worth publishing.

Things you need to know

You can take a look at the book on Amazon and decide whether or not you would like to read the entire thing. But if fighting fraud is your schtick, the topics the book covers are ones you should become familiar with, since you will see them come up over and over again in fraud prevention work in some shape or form.

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Author: Ronen Shnidman

Ronen Shnidman is the Managing Editor of about-fraud.dream.press.