Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Math tree may help root out fraudsters: Applying algorithm to social networks can reveal hidden connections criminals use to commit fraud

Date:
September 6, 2012
Source:
University of Alberta
Summary:
Fraudsters beware: The more your social networks connect you and your accomplices to the crime, the easier it will be to shake you from the tree. The Steiner tree, that is. In a new article, researchers outlined the connection linking fraud cases and the algorithm designed by Swiss mathematician Jakob Steiner.

Fraudsters beware: the more your social networks connect you and your accomplices to the crime, the easier it will be to shake you from the tree.

The Steiner tree, that is.

In an article recently published in the journal Computer Fraud and Security, University of Alberta researcher Ray Patterson and colleagues from the University of Connecticut and University of California -- Merced outlined the connection linking fraud cases and the algorithm designed by Swiss mathematician Jakob Steiner. Fraud is a problem that costs Canadians billions of dollars annually and countless hours of police investigations. Patterson says that building the algorithm into fraud investigation software may provide important strategic advantages.

The criminal path of least resistance

To quote a television gumshoe, everything's connected. Figuring out who knows who and who has access to the money is like playing a game of connect-the-dots. Patterson says that for crimes like fraud, the fewer players in the scheme, the more likely it will be accomplished. Maintaining a small group of players is also what links it to the Steiner tree. He says that by analyzing various connecting social networks -- email, Facebook or the like -- finding out the who, what and how of the crime can be boiled down to numbers.

"You're really trying to find the minimum set of connectors that connect these people to the various [network] resources," he said. "The minimum number of people required is what's most likely to be the smoking gun. You can do it with math, once you know what the networks are."

Fraud and the Steiner tree, by the numbers

In their article, Patterson and his colleagues explored how networks such as phone calls, business partnerships and family relationships are used to form essential relationships in a fraud investigation. When these same relationships are layered, a pattern of connection becomes obvious. Once unnecessary links are removed and false leads are extracted, the remaining connections are most likely the best suspects. Patterson says that finding the shortest connection between the criminals and the crime is the crux of the Steiner tree.

"All of these things that we see in life, behind them is a mathematical representation," said Patterson. "There are many, many different algorithms that we can pull off a shelf and apply to real-life problems."

A potential tool for the long arm of the law?

Patterson says that with the amount of work that could potentially go into investigating a fraud case, such as obtaining warrants for phone or email records, and identifying and interviewing potential suspects, developing a program that uses a Steiner tree algorithm may save a significant portion of investigators' time -- time that, he says, could likely be reallocated to backlog or cold case files. "If you can reduce your legwork by even 20 per cent, that has massive manpower implications. I think algorithms like this one could help you reduce your legwork a lot more than that," he said.

Although there is software that police and other law enforcement agencies can use to solve fraud, Patterson sees no evidence that those programs use a Steiner tree algorithm, something he says would bring some structure to an unstructured area. He hopes programmers and investigators will take note of the findings and make changes to their practices.

"It might take several years or many years before anyone picks it up," said Patterson. "But it's a good thing if we can point people towards what's useful."


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Alberta. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Ram D Gopal, Raymond A Patterson, Erik Rolland, Dmitry Zhdanov. Social network meets Sherlock Holmes: investigating the missing links of fraud. Computer Fraud & Security, 2012; 2012 (7): 12 DOI: 10.1016/S1361-3723(12)70074-X

Cite This Page:

University of Alberta. "Math tree may help root out fraudsters: Applying algorithm to social networks can reveal hidden connections criminals use to commit fraud." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 6 September 2012. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120906092805.htm>.
University of Alberta. (2012, September 6). Math tree may help root out fraudsters: Applying algorithm to social networks can reveal hidden connections criminals use to commit fraud. ScienceDaily. Retrieved April 19, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120906092805.htm
University of Alberta. "Math tree may help root out fraudsters: Applying algorithm to social networks can reveal hidden connections criminals use to commit fraud." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/09/120906092805.htm (accessed April 19, 2014).

Share This



More Computers & Math News

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Nintendo Changed Gaming World, but Its Future Uncertain: Upstone

Nintendo Changed Gaming World, but Its Future Uncertain: Upstone

AFP (Apr. 19, 2014) The Nintendo Game Boy celebrates its 25th anniversary Monday and game expert Stephen Upstone says the console can be credited with creating a trend towards handheld gaming devices. Duration: 01:21 Video provided by AFP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Nearly Two Weeks On, The Internet Copes With Heartbleed

Nearly Two Weeks On, The Internet Copes With Heartbleed

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) The Internet is taking important steps in patching the vulnerabilities Heartbleed highlighted, but those preventive measures carry their own costs. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Facebook To Share Nearby Friends Data With Advertisers

Facebook To Share Nearby Friends Data With Advertisers

Newsy (Apr. 19, 2014) A Facebook spokesperson has confirmed the company will use GPS data from the new Nearby Friends feature for advertising sometime in the future. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Man Claims He Found Loch Ness Monster With... Apple Maps?

Newsy (Apr. 18, 2014) Andy Dixon showed the Daily Mail a screenshot of what he believes to be the mythical beast swimming just below the lake's surface. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins