Posted by Douglas Wood, Editor.
Two weeks ago, I wrote in this space about some interesting experiences I’d had working through Workers Compensation Premium Fraud at a government run program. This week, I received a fraud alert about a retailer being banned from ever selling lottery tickets, and it reminded me of a great exercise I underwent with a government run Lottery corporation several years ago.
Lottery retailer fraud is simple and widespread. NBC Dateline ran a two hour episode several years ago, outlining the problem and going undercover to catch some bad guys in action.
In a nutshell, there are many unscrupulous retailers who outright lie to patrons when asked to check their numbers. Joe the customer hands the ticket over to the clerk and asks her to see if it’s a winner. She scans the barcode and says “Sorry, Joe… you didn’t win“. Then, as Joe heads out the door, she picks the ticket up from the trash bin knowing full well that it’s a big winner. Here’s a real life example.
How bad is the problem? According to Dateline NBC, a Philadelphia retailer cashed eighteen lottery tickets in three months for a total of $45,000. In New Jersey, a retailer cashed 105 lottery tickets for more than $236,000. In Illinois, it found one store where four employees and five of their relatives cashed a total of 556 winning tickets, for more than $1,600,000. In California, lottery investigators were seeing the same thing. In fact, in 2007, the five most frequent winners in California were retailers. One store owner in Los Angeles allegedly cashed 121 tickets for more than $160,000.
As a result of shrinking public trust and outrage, many lottery corporations have taken to more tightly scrutinize ‘winning’ ticket claims from lottery retailers. What, though, if the lottery clerk has her husband cash the ticket? Or her next door neighbor? How can you scrutinize large winning ticket claims without grinding the process to a halt?
That’s precisely where my customer was when they called me.
As with any fraud prevention program, the availability of data was of utmost importance as we scoped out the technology solution. The lottery corporation obviously knew who their retailers were (XYZ Groceries, ABC Petroleum, etc) but how did that help point to a specific Suzie Employee within that retailer? After all, companies weren’t cashing in winning tickets. People were.
Well, we helped them realize that they had employee names as a result of the mandatory training they offered retailers for handling sales of lottery tickets. Each employee of a retailer was required to take a brief online course for certification purposes, and entered some of their personal data (name, date of birth) in order to begin the training.
That got us through step one – the employees. In order to get to the next level of culprit (the family or neighbors of employees), we incorporated publicly available data into the mix.
Through a defined process of business discovery and problem resolution, we designed a process where individuals redeeming winning tickets above a certain value would be compared to the data of retail employees. If it was determined that a winner closely resembled a retail employee, an alert was automatically generated for investigators.
If a winner was determined to be closely acquainted to a retail employee via relationship-detection technology and public data, an alert was again generated. The specifics of how relationships were determined and analyzed won’t be disclosed for obvious reasons, but one example would be a shared address or telephone number.
This particularly lottery corporation was fortunate that they had a mechanism by which to collect employee data. In meeting with dozens of other Lotteries in the years since, I’ve learned that not enough of them have a similar process in place. Unfortunately, without that initial data set, it’s more difficult to detect this type of fraud.
In the case of my client, however, they began immediately seeing benefits in the new process and several fraudulent retailers were exposed. It was some very interesting work, and a cool exercise in problem solving for complex fraud.
Posted by Douglas G. Wood. Check out my site at www.crimetechsolutions.com