Six ways financial crime professionals can use social networks to advance their cases and careers

You’ve been told about the importance of social networks ad nauseum, but between casework, your personal life and actual in-person networking, finding the time to tend to these profiles can be demanding. However, any financial crime professional trying to build a name in the field – even if your position precludes you from being publicly prominent – should know the basics.

  1. Getting your message to the right groups: Facebook and LinkedIn each offer different versions of “groups” where like-minded professionals can virtually meet up to exchange ideas and strategies. A little-known feature on LinkedIn (the most powerful social networking tool for financial crime professionals) is the power to disseminate a message to multiple groups in one fell swoop. To do this, simply share an update. Once you see it posted below on your wall, click the “share” button and add groups and individuals as recipients. The update will be posted across all these destinations. Be careful not to violate the terms of your groups – they may not want you spamming their pages. Used properly, these groups can help you get assistance on your case or secure your next assignment.
  2. Build a social network profile of your target: Getting to know your colleagues and spreading your brand is great for promotion, but what about the actual work of fighting financial crime? Social Network Search can be a powerful tool for this as well. Photos on Facebook can tip you to a subject’s property, travel habits and family structure. Cross referencing a job title on LinkedIn with a position analysis on a site like Salary.com can give you a rough idea of a subject’s income. Any modern day assets investigation should include a Social Network Profile detailing your subject’s online presence. What groups does he belong to? Who is he connected to? What companies has he worked for?
  3. Subscribe to news feeds to stay in touch: Tools like Feedburner and Google Alerts allow you to subscribe to topical news that could be of interest to you, but these are not social networks, per se. Building all these feeds can be heavy on your bandwidth and they require attention. Why reinvent the wheel? You know your colleagues and competitors are likely to subscribe to the same topics you want to follow. Find out what they’re following on digg.com, a slightly lesser-known social network that allows you to subscribe to the reading habits of others. Use it to keep up on what is being said and read.
  4. Create your own network: It doesn’t take much to create a group or network of your own – just a time investment and few articles, original or aggregated, to get the conversation rolling. Again, LinkedIn is the preferred platform for this activity. Try building a group tailored to your specific practice, say “AML in Mexico,” and devote some time to inviting people to join and sharing information. It won’t be long until the roster of group members is sharing information with you, making that time investment pay off.
  5. Obtain a professional certification: There is a clear value to belonging to the membership association of your field and earning its credential – apart from the intrinsic values. Being a certified, card-carrying member of groups like ACFCS also means you have a community of members to draw upon. ACFCS offers a plethora of groups on Facebook and LinkedIn and Twitter feeds. Part of being competitive is staying up to date on competitive intelligence. You should also subscribe to these feeds and regularly post stories of interest to your profiles.
  6. Insulate yourself: This final tip is more advice on what not to do than what to do. Social networking goes both ways. When investigating subjects, be aware that you can leave breadcrumbs behind that will lead back to you. For instance, regular and premium LinkedIn users – those who pay a subscription rate – can view to varying degrees of detail the people who look at their accounts. There is a function in the privacy settings where you can “anonymize” yourself, but some information can still get through. Avoid this problem altogether by creating fake profiles that seem plausible. That is, if your subject is an escrow agent in South Florida, make your false profile an independent realtor from Orlando. That way, you can plausibly connect with the subject without raising suspicion, and the geography is just enough that your subject won’t wonder why he hasn’t met “you.” Also, if your avatar is independent, he won’t be listed on company sites like ReMax or other larger firms. Remember that most social networks frown on this practice, so if you are outed, your fake profile –and possibly other profiles associated with your e-mail address – could be deleted. Make sure they aren’t connected.

While no career or case can be made solely on a social network, these tools are now required reading. Another word of caution: Don’t fall too deep down the rabbit hole. These social networks can be time-drains, if not regulated properly. Devote 15 minutes a day to this activity, and be sure not to let your efforts languish. The best way to build steam is daily use – in moderation.