Mountain Biking: A Near Perfect Analogy to Fraud Fighting
Updated: Oct 3, 2022
I recently started mountain biking. With trails riding distance from my house, it seemed like a good way to get out, explore the woods, and get in shape (though my post-Thanksgiving ride told me otherwise). I've only been out a handful of times so far, but I enjoy it. It is exhilarating, challenging, and exhausting to say the least. It is, in my early opinion, also a near perfect analogy to fraud fighting.
One difference to get out of the way up front is that mountain biking is based on an individual rider. Fraud fighting is a team sport. You need people. To make the analogy work better, let's picture the rider as the people in the organization. That is also a great place to start.
When riding, you need strength to power the bike and endurance to maintain the distance of the trail. What does that mean for the people on your team? For one, it means you have an adequate number of experts to power the shop and stop crime. Riding also requires mental fortitude to be able to maneuver the trail's terrain. Similarly, you need people who can think and analyze properly. The experience a rider is like the expertise a fraud team has.
Next, we move to the bike itself. The bike represents the various systems and solutions needed to detect, prevent, and investigate fraud. If your bike is cheaply made, good luck to you on the trail when you hit a jump and the frame crumples underneath you. That doesn't mean you have to opt for a top-of-the-line ride. It means you get what you need to maneuver the course safely. A fraud system or solution needs to also cover what it was built for. Going old and cheap may not work because solutions become outdated as technology (and fraud) shifts. Solid build quality on a bike allows you to trust the ride; you can go faster without worrying about a break or crash. It is a same thing with a good fraud system.
Before you and your bike hit the trail it is time to prep. Wearing helmets and gloves and filling up a water bottle is just one piece of it. This is like the planning that goes on in a fraud shop. The other piece of prepping is the bike itself. It needs checked and tuned. Tire pressure needs to be right and gears need to be working correctly. For fraud this means tuning and strategizing your systems appropriately. A failure to do so can lead to high false positives, fraud losses, and a bad customer experience. You may not be able to respond to fraud risk appropriately. One goal of mountain biking is to get through the trail. Doing so unscathed is another goal. Fraud isn't much different; your goal is to maneuver and work through the risks to avoid loss and protect victims. Every day, week, month, quarter, and year that you do this effectively, you win.
So, you pull your bike up near the trail head and look at a map. It won't tell you everything, but it gives you a good idea of what to expect. Learning about the various criminal elements risks out there mirrors this. Just remember that such maps only help so much. You'll just need to ride the trail.
The trail starts out easy, but you quickly get into the woods. Each part of the trail changes, with twists and turns. Leaves create slipping and can cover rocks and roots. Roots shift tire position if not ran over correctly. Even walnuts can cause issues. I once nearly hit two turtles who decided the trail was a good place to have lunch. And don't get me started on mud. In the anti-fraud profession, you must be ready for obstacles in the form of attacks. There is always a new scheme afoot. And with mountain biking, an obstacle is just one thing.
There are many different variables to account for, all at one time. Balance, speed, positioning, gearing, grade (peddling/coasting), terrain, obstacles, braking, jumping, fatigue, etc. It is the same with fraud; there is so much to account for. Different attacks target a variety of entities across monetary amounts. As an example, take a look at just some of the scam variants affecting consumers (https://www.fraudwit.com/post/7-560-scam-variants-in-short-form).
One decision you make could have ramifications in other areas of your organization. In biking, all these components mesh at one time during the ride. It all flows together as you account for the path. With fraud, it requires deliberation, but time is still of the essence. Ignoring an emerging trend or threat in time can be detrimental to the fraud team, the organization it supports, and the customers it serves.
While you are looking directly ahead, your peripheral vision is scanning what is next. This is analogous to fighting fraud in the present while planning for the future. If you can’t navigate the short term, you won't get to that turn or hill ahead. And if you fail to account for the long term, you might not be equipped to handle it.
You do all this. You get to enjoy the scenery while you ride, and you meet the challenges to stay on your bike and hit the trail hard. You avoid falling down a cliff, and your bike still works. Tired, you ride out of the woods. So, the ride is done; your day of foiling thieves is complete. What do you do? Clean up, rest and relax. That mountain trail of crime will be there tomorrow, ready for you to conquer it again!
One last thing. There are others one that winding and hilly fraud fighting trail. If you see an obstacle, give them a heads up. While you and your team are the ones riding your bike, helping others is crucial to cutting down on the funds going into the pockets of the criminals. A spirit of collaboration can also help you and your organization in the future.
Thanks for reading.