Read our recent interview with Laura Weaver, who currently works as an NHS Counter Fraud Investigator, and learn about what her job entails, why she chose to work in counter fraud and what rewards and challenges she faces within the industry.
Tell us about yourself and the work you currently do?
I currently work as an NHS Counter Fraud Investigator. I work nationally and have done this role since 2009. I began my career in HR within the NHS and worked alongside the Counter Fraud Investigator at the time and then decided to put myself through the training before jumping ship! I am inquisitive (in other words nosey), so I felt I was better suited to Fraud Investigations than Human Resources!
What tasks does your job entail?
We are required to undertake proactive work to raise awareness of Fraud and Bribery in the form of training, workshops, policy reviews and audits. We agree an annual plan of work with our clients to ensure ongoing awareness.
We also undertake reactive investigations, which are conducted in accordance with the Police and Criminal Evidence Act 1984. We will then look to apply appropriate sanctions (disciplinary, civil, criminal) where Fraud and/or Bribery is identified.
What is the favourite part of your job?
Saving taxpayers money which all goes towards improving patient care. NHS Fraud costs £1.25bn a year which is the equivalent of approximately 40,000 nurses – just think how different our NHS would be if that money was never lost!
What is the most challenging part of your job?
Switching off – People commit fraud because they feel that they have no other choice. House searches when children are present is horrible as it can be quite scary for them to see myself and the police arrive. Things can sometimes play on my mind, but I must remember I am just doing my job and a crime is a crime.
What experience and qualifications do you have?
I have an international business degree, Diploma in Human Resources Management, ACFS and I have also done other courses such as Prince 2 Project Management.
What drew you to the counter fraud industry?
I thrive in demanding and challenging environments – there isn’t a day or a case that is ever the same which makes my job interesting. I am not the kind of person to sit at a desk 9-5 so the variety of work that my job entails is perfect for me. I am a people person and can talk the hind legs off a donkey so interacting and building relationships with people of all staff levels in a variety of sectors is well suited to my personality.
My line of work also offers continual learning, and you will learn a lot about processes and procedures.
What skills (hard or soft) should someone have in your field?
Soft skills – I think interpersonal skills is key – you need to be confident training people and presenting. Additionally, you need to build rapport with people so that they feel comfortable raising concerns, which can be very overwhelming and stressful.
Hard skills – Some cases can be quite lengthy and there is a lot of analysis so good concentration and analytical skills is also essential. We need to ensure we don’t miss key bits of evidence and that we follow all reasonable lines of enquiry to prove or disprove fraud and/or bribery when allegations are received. We also need to write prosecution files and take witness statements so good reading and math skills are vital.
What advice do you have for someone new/wishing to enter the counter fraud industry?
It’s an interesting job but it’s so easy to get complacent – no two cases are the same although the allegations might be. Therefore, it is key to treat every case with a fresh pair of eyes and to not make assumptions but to always go off the evidence and facts.
Best/worst job decision you have ever made?
That’s a good question – I once identified a £2M fraud in a case I was told to drop. It’s nice when you have a hunch and follow your instincts which is something you do develop with experience.
Worst decision – I wouldn’t say I have made a bad decision, but I do tend to overthink and not switch off from work which I would say is an ongoing bad decision!
What is your greatest career strength?
I have a very inquisitive mind and I am good at thinking outside the box – I often don’t stop thinking which is great for investigations but bad for sleep sometimes!
How has the counter fraud industry changed since you started?
In terms of the industry itself, I think people are now recognising the need for Counter Fraud Specialists and prevention and detection methods. I have seen the industry progress and we now use a lot of data analytics, behavioural analytics, and Artificial Intelligence to assist with prevention and detection. I think it’s an exciting time to begin a career in Counter Fraud.
However, on another hand, I do think publicity of Counter fraud cases and roles is very poor – I think these needs to rapidly increase. For example, romance fraud is increasing significantly but I see very little exposure about this. We often see awareness after an incident has occurred (reactive awareness) as opposed to proactive awareness.
How do you think COVID-19 has impacted counter fraud training and investigations?
I think it has impacted our role in both good and bad ways – Remote awareness has allowed us to spend less time travelling however this method prevents us from having private and personal conversations which usually help to build people’s confidence when raising concerns. It is important that we do not become complacent and that we do still visit clients and attend team meetings because fraud is currently the number one crime, and we have a duty to raise awareness.
What has been your biggest challenge and how did you overcome it?
I think trying to remain detached from witnesses is a challenging part of the job. Fraud often occurs due to bad management, and it can be quite hard to inform a manager that an employee has committed fraud because they haven’t done their job properly, especially when they are very upset. Often people who commit fraud abuse their colleagues’ trust so whilst I must tell managers it’s their own fault, I do feel sorry for them as they are also a victim of the crime.