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To Catch a Criminal, Train AI to Think Like One

  • It's valuable to know how criminals and fraudsters think
  • Some criminal traits are actually admirable when redirected
  • AI and ML detect criminal tactics and habits that human observation can overlook

Business Innovation Brief offers some streetwise advice: If you want to stop fraud activity, you have to think like a criminal.

They also go one step further to suggest that, perhaps, in some strange way we admire and "root for" the criminal mind:

Have you seen the movie, The Day of the Jackal?  In this 1973 film directed by Fred Zinnemann, Edward Fox plays a professional assassin, the “Jackal”, who is hired to assassinate French president Charles de Gaulle.  It is a compelling thriller in which it is hard not to admire the cunning and guile of the ruthless killer.  In the end you feel disappointed that he did not succeed with his audacious plan.

Hackers will stop at nothing to gain access to your customer's accounts and funds.

The article goes on to point out that we don't really think to much of the "common" smash-and-grab criminal -- we'll laugh at the break-in artist who gets stuck in a window. However, the article claims we may have "a grudging admiration for criminal masterminds."

Think Like a Criminal?

Here are, according to Business Innovation Brief, some of the "criminal mind traits" that noncriminals could and should aspire to:

  • They break the rules.  Criminals are prepared to break any rule and any law.  We should obey the law but at the same time be prepared to challenge every rule and convention.  Travis Kalanick broke the rules of the taxi business when he founded a taxi company that had no taxis – Uber.  Anita Roddick broke the rules of the cosmetics business when she started the Body Shop.  She sold perfumes and shampoos in plastic bottles and offered customers refills.
  • They exploit weaknesses.  Crooks look for flaws in security systems and then seek to exploit them.  Sports coaches look for weaknesses in their opponents’ set-ups. Generals look for weaknesses in the enemy positions. Marketing professionals look for weaknesses in their competitors’ marketing.  Business leaders and political leaders look for weaknesses in their rivals and at the same time must be aware of their own weaknesses which can be exploited.
  • They mislead and disguise.  A clever magician distracts you with one hand while picking your pocket with the other.  Eisenhower put great efforts into misleading Hitler regarding his D-Day intentions.  He feinted that he would invade at the Pas de Calais rather than in Normandy.  Misdirection is a clever tactic in many a contest.
  • They take risks and accept failure.  An ambitious criminal takes calculated risks.  He knows there is a danger that he will be caught and endure a spell in prison. It is an occupational hazard which he accepts.  He tries and tries again.  All great entrepreneurs and inventors are risk-takers.  Many business founders have several flops before they hit on a winner.  If we want more success then we should be prepared to take more risks, fail more often and learn from setbacks.
  • They think laterally.  Keep looking for a smarter alternative.  Car thieves in Taiwan found an ingenious way to evade police while collecting ransoms from owners for the return of their vehicles.  They used homing pigeons. They leave a ransom note and a pigeon, promising to return the car if the bird is dispatched with cash in a can tied to its body. The police said, ‘we tried to catch the thieves by using telescopes to follow the pigeon, but it flew too high and too fast, and we lost it.’

Detect and Gather Criminal Habits

Synchrony Chief Information Officer Bess Healy shared with PYMNTS some of their artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) strategies.

  • Synchrony’s long-term investments in technology have included AI and cloud systems as well as customer education about digital services.
  • “[AI should be viewed] as an entire ecosystem of automation,” she explained. “[Its applications range] from process and workflow automation to really changing what our employees are doing so that they’re not [performing] repetitive [tasks]. … We’re applying intelligence to the process … to have our employees do things that we want only humans to do.”
  • Synchrony’s AI umbrella covers three distinct components: intelligent automation, an intelligent virtual assistant and machine learning (ML).
  • Synchrony’s AI ecosystem employs ML and automated decision-making to learn from and adapt to new behavioral patterns.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning are, in effect, constantly learning to "think like a criminal." As Ms. Healy notes, "“The bad guys never sleep,” Healy said. “The pace at which change is coming at us makes it crucial to employ ML and leverage and harness the data we have to feed those capabilities.”

By deploying a forensic AI approach to check fraud, the technology performs hundreds of tests while examining new check images against past images of checks to identify deviations and possible changes in behavior. This technology enables banks to examine large volumes of checks, identify which checks are legitimate, and signal those that should be manually reviewed by a human -- reducing the amount of labor needed to ensure funds are protected.


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