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We Are All Liars

Ann Stevens October 16, 2018
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Pamela Meyer is a Certified Fraud Examiner, world-renowned deception detection expert, bestselling author, and TED talk speaker. Pamela holds an MBA from Harvard and has extensive training in the use of visual cues and psychology to detect deception. Her meticulously researched book Liespotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception is an Amazon bestseller, and her captivating Top 10 TED Talk How to Spot a Liar has over 19 million views and has been translated into 40 languages. Pamela also teaches statement analysis, negotiation strategy, interviewing techniques, and interrogation.

Pamela will be speaking at the upcoming November 7 COR.SPARK Innovation Summit on A Masterclass on Spotting Lies, Getting to the Truth, Inside Threats and the new face of trust.

I had the opportunity to interview Pamela so she could sketch a little preamble to her speech at the event.

1. Are your family members afraid to lie to you? How do they react when you catch the lies? 

It’s a crazy arms race at home! Think about it. The better one gets at spotting lies, the better the opponent gets at lying. We have an explicit family value that focuses not just on honesty but more importantly on understanding. We try our best to talk things out, remain honest and open and not judge each other, but that doesn’t mean my 10-year old isn’t hiding chocolate bars under her pillow occasionally!

2. You have been dubbed “the nation’s best lie-spotter”. How long did it take you to be an expert in lie spotting and are there new techniques to lying that you are still discovering?

There are several pillars of “expertise” in lie spotting that required years of my focus. First, the research—there is a significant amount of bad science out there. I spent five years with a team of researchers surveying the science-finding data points that could be confirmed in more than one place, throwing out findings for which there is little evidence. Secondly, there are many different forms of training I underwent: facial micro-expression analysis, interviewing and interrogation, the psychology of deception, and advanced deception detection training.

Finally, I had to learn by experience to focus on ground truth—field experience, cases to crack, and many consulting assignments where one learns quickly that just because someone is lying, it doesn’t mean the truth will emerge easily. I would say it took over a decade of research, on the ground training and experience and lots of mistakes along the way to emerge an expert. I would also add that there are master interrogators out there with 30-40 years on-the-ground experience. You have never heard of them, but I know many of them, and they are the unsung heroes of the deception detection world, working hard on cases you don’t know about, that keep our country and our institutions safe.

3. How can banks and other financial institutions apply your “Proven Techniques to Detect Deception” in detecting fraud and institutional fraud, without turning down a potentially good customer?

There are numerous ways that banks and financial institutions can safeguard trust and minimize fraud. All of them are already hard at work at this. Employee hotlines for reporting insider threats and fraud have been hugely effective. Fraud prevention managers must be trained not just in document analysis, but in interviewing, deception detection, facial micro-expression analysis, and social engineering. Inside threat mitigation is also crucial.

While every institution knows that phishing attacks can leave massive vulnerabilities in the information infrastructure of a company, few are focused on the human side—yet over half of cyber attacks occur from the inside. I will be talking more about this at the COR.IQ Innovation Summit in November. The red flags for an inside threat are different from the red flags for basic deception.

4. How important is a collaboration between multiple organizations and industries in fraud detection?

The biggest challenge we have is benchmarking. Few institutions are willing to share data, findings and most importantly best practices. Yet when one institution falls prey to fraud and reputation damage, the entire industry suffers.

5. Do you think social media can be a reliable source for helping banks confirm that the customers are who they say they are?

Yes and No. Yes, we can learn a lot about someone from their social media posts. But no- it never gives you the full picture. As with any form of fact-finding, one needs to use multiple sources and confirm the facts many times over.

While some of us grew up with one identity (I am Pamela Meyer, I live in Washington DC, I run the company Calibrate), the next generation of customers act differently. They now have many identities- a gaming identity, a student identity, a dating identity, a professional identity. Because they have multiple identities, they are also less attached to any single one which means they are sometimes more comfortable tweaking, preening and rendering their profiles somewhat falsely. So one can certainly collect this information but it should be analyzed as one piece of a bigger puzzle.

6. How can financial institutions improve their levels of trust through their actions? Does it start internally, with the culture?

As outlined clearly in the Edelman Trust Barometer report, we are finding out that smart actions speak louder than smart words. While trust crashed in the past few years, banks are uniquely positioned to take the lead in restoring trust by offering real value for money. They can also further build trust by refusing to engage in questionable practices, doubling down on risk mitigation, and by building a culture of trust from within.

This is a culture that addresses the unique challenges of the banking industry especially with respect to horizontal coordination across units. One of the key findings of the Edelman Trust Survey is that in Canada there is a renewed appetite for credible authoritative voices. This is a huge opportunity for the banking industry to take the lead with, by building a strong value system.

7. What is the role of new technology in deception detection? 

This is a fascinating disruptive time in the world of deception detection. AI, facial recognition, electronic lie detection, and many other new technologies are on the horizon. For example, I sit on the Advisory board of Converus, the creator of an ocular lie detection system that is inexpensive, reliable, and far less invasive than a polygraph.

My belief is that many of these new technologies will make our world much safer and that the entire industry is being reinvented. Banks have a huge opportunity –especially with respect to Know Your Customer concerns, to experiment with the huge emerging offering of solutions.

8. Fraudsters are still beating lie detector tests. Do you think a lie detector machine that will be impossible to beat will soon be invented?

The polygraph, like most tests, can be gamed but it’s actually quite rare. The bigger concern one has with polygraph is that the questions can be changed on the fly, and it is subject to bias. Imagine you are doing an investigation and you interview five suspects. The investigator is not likely to ask the same exact questions in the same exact way for each suspect. Typically the interview is more free-flowing.

The technology is also intimidating and could be vulnerable to countermeasures. Some new technology on the horizon is promising. For example, the ocular measurement system such as Converus Eye Detect looks at several autonomic biometric indicators that cannot be controlled by the suspect such as pupil dilation. The lie detection industry--in particular the polygraph is in the midst of huge disruption as facial recognition, ocular measurement, AI and biometrics emerge in a perfect storm to challenge the old school ways of determining if someone is telling the truth.

If you would like to watch Pamela speak about the detailed scientific findings on how deception is expressed and how to spot a lie to prevent fraud, kindly register for the 2018 Innovation Summit. Entry is limited and carefully gated, we encourage you to reserve your seat ahead of time.

Ann Stevens

“Identities are increasingly targeted by organized crime groups as a first step to more complex crime. By working together with industry experts, we can better understand how to prevent identity theft and reduce the opportunities for organized fraud.” Ann has worked in Criminal Intelligence for 28 years in both Public and Private Sector roles (Law Enforcement and Financial Industry). Her focus is Intelligence & Investigations and taking a proactive approach to crime reduction and risk mitigation. She spent the last eight years in the Financial Industry. Ann led the Canadian Bankers Association Centralized Financial Crime Intelligence team. Working towards a National Financial Crime Strategy, the team responsibilities included providing support to Law Enforcement and Corporate Security Investigations proactively identifying and targeting organized crime groups. She later joined two of Canada’s big five banks, first at TD Bank as Global Security Investigations Senior Manager, Intelligence and later to CIBC as a Director of Security before joining the Equifax fraud team in 2013.

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