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You Can Mimic a Result, but Not the Creativity

A recent survey found that 93% of respondents agreed that fraudsters have become more diverse and that the speed of innovation has increased with it, resulting in greater complexity when detecting their behaviour.  

This stat flashed up in my mind on one of many zoom calls I attend, engaging with peers to try and get some normalcy in my life, when one of the attendees said something that stuck with me: "you can mimic a criminal, but you'll never be able to think like a criminal". From this, I came up with two questions: 

  1. Why not? 
  2. Does it matter? 

Let's delve into the first question. From a purely psychological standpoint, there's speculation that the mind of a criminal is different from law abiding citizens, however studies on this topic vary and although there are some interesting findings, there's no definitive answer. Think of the criminals who have been in the right place (or wrong place, depending on your view) at the right time; opportunistic criminals who never committed a crime before, but something in their brain triggered them into acting out of character. Were they always destined to make that choice because of their DNA? Did events in their life directed them to this path, or were they influenced by their surroundings? 

We are all the culmination of our own experiences in life so far, and whilst psychiatrists, psychologists and Derren Brown can to a certain degree understand our motivations and predict with differing levels of success what actions we will take in certain situations, nothing is ever certain. But what we can do is increase the size of the group we are studying, expand the data points and consider more behavioural traits to allow us to better identify and predict what is going to happen next.  

Regarding criminals, if we think about that conversely, then the biggest group that we can study is the non-criminal population. And if we can predict what they are going to do, then we can be relatively confident in the anomalies being the behaviour of the criminal fraternity. 

So, to answer both questions succinctly: no, we can't think like criminals and that doesn't matter. Because we can instead understand the behaviour of non-criminals and use that as the benchmark to help us catch the criminals when they act out.  

The time to act is now: companies must review their existing anti-fraud arsenal, identify vulnerabilities and then rapidly greenlight investment to deploy solutions that are fit for the future, whatever it may hold. 


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Steve Goddard

Steve Goddard



Member since

29 Apr 2021



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This post is from a series of posts in the group:

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