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Preventing Fraud

Using adverse media screening tools to protect public trust

· 5 minute read

· 5 minute read

Adverse media screening is one of the most effective safeguards that state and local government agencies have against program or vendor fraud, waste, and abuse. Adverse media screening involves scanning a variety of local and national media sources for evidence of a vendor or applicant’s involvement in questionable activity. Many agencies around the country have made negative press screening part of their onboarding protocols and routine security reviews. Investigation, fraud prevention, and compliance teams use this information to evaluate risks to the organization and preserve the integrity of their programs.

Despite the importance of adverse media screening, most state and local agencies rely on commonly available, free search tools. Search engines are the most commonly used tools for adverse media screening, despite having numerous limitations that can significantly compromise the effectiveness of risk management efforts. To better protect the public’s trust in their government programs, state and local agencies should invest in adverse media solutions that are built for the job.

Manual screening for adverse media produces limited results

Humans generate quintillions of data bytes every day. Adverse media represents a very small portion of what is published, but the staggering volume of online content makes it difficult for investigators and program integrity teams to find the media reports that actually matter. Especially if they rely on search tools that return millions of results with every query. Beyond news outlets, there are social media channels, blog posts, press releases, watchlists, databases, and a wide range of other channels that must be considered, sometimes in multiple languages.

Manually screening and monitoring for adverse media online is extremely time-consuming and ineffective. It isn’t possible or practical to scour the internet for relevant content and information this way.

Search engines are limited for adverse media research

Most state and local government agencies conduct adverse media checks by using free internet search engines, such as Google or Bing. These tools primarily use names and keywords to return a list of results that match the search criteria. However, these searches typically return a very large number of results that may or may not be relevant and probably won’t help the organization mitigate risk. Analysts must then manually scan the results for potential adverse media mentions.

Additional search queries using keywords with modifiers such as “and,” “not,” and “or” may return more relevant results, but still generate a large number of false positives and may miss significant risks not contained in publicly accessible web content.

When used for adverse media research, search engines suffer from a number of other limitations:

  • Results often contain multiple hits for the same or similar content
  • It can be difficult to determine truly adverse events
  • Investigators often have trouble verifying the identity of a subject
  • Teams need to overcome language barriers when accessing some content
  • Results may miss significant risks not contained in mainstream news sources

Cut through the noise with AI-driven solutions

State and local government agencies can easily reduce the amount of time and effort they spend identifying, evaluating, and investigating negative news by investing in new technological tools that are specifically designed for adverse media screening. These solutions use artificial intelligence and machine learning systems to quickly and accurately identify media mentions that matter by discounting unimportant news, identifying false positives, and recognizing relevant media that warrants further evaluation. The technology can determine if a news article actually focuses on the subject of interest or just mentions the subject in another context. It also speeds the review process by highlighting other keywords and potentially important terms. This eliminates the need to manually evaluate large volumes of content, giving risk mitigation and fraud detection teams the information they need to conduct comprehensive and diligent investigations.

Automate the adverse media screening process

In addition to significantly reducing the time and money spent on manual screening, AI-driven solutions can also automate ongoing adverse media reviews that flag new stories related to current vendors or beneficiaries and notify the program integrity team for further review. This type of system saves state and local agencies from running repeated checks on every person or company they work with, allowing them to focus on existing issues.

Automated screening also flags less significant events that may only generate a handful of postings by local or city media. While large news agencies may not pick up these stories, negative news at all levels can pose risks to government programs. Events that occur in remote areas may not reach larger news agencies for days. Some events may never reach larger mainstream news agencies. Automated adverse media screening systems help keep a watchful eye on deeper waters.

Search beyond the news media

While mainstream news coverage focuses on significant stories of interest to the public, the news media may not report every risk-related piece of information. Screening press releases, reports by non-governmental organizations, third-party sources of structured data, and notices published by other law enforcement agencies, tax authorities, or government agencies can often reveal hard-to-find risk information.

Including open-source public records in adverse media screening ensures that investigators and program integrity agents are accessing detailed information from a wide range of reliable sources, including the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC), criminal charges and conviction data, sanctions watchlists and blacklists, and more.

Proactively reviewing adverse media gives state and local agencies the information they need to protect their programs’ integrity and the public’s trust in those programs. In some cases, ongoing monitoring can even prevent government fraud, waste, and abuse before it happens. Learn more about adverse media screening solutions for your team here.

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