Skip main navigation

Undertaking an investigation – The first steps

In this step, we will look at the first steps where you are likely to be involved in the investigative roadmap.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

Undertaking an investigation should follow the route map shown below.

The highlighted points on the route map are those we will be looking at in this step.

Case acceptance > Criminal vs civil routes > Developing a case theory (highlighted)> Resource management > Making and recording decisions > Case management (highlighted)> Partnership and cross sector working > Investigation plans (highlighted) > Working with victims (highlighted) > Working with witnesses > Covert investigations > Gathering relevant material > Forensic investigative opportunities > International investigations > Use of subject matter experts > Identifying and managing the suspect > Developing a media strategy > Material recovery > Court > Charge.”> Click to view in a separate window

(Betts 2017)

Over the next two steps, we’ll look at the points in the route map at which you are most likely to be involved in the process and where you may need to make a decision.

Developing a case theory

This is the first significant point in the process that needs to be considered.

When you have received an allegation that fraud has been committed, you should use your previous experience and knowledge to develop a case theory. This should help give you an idea of what happened and is similar to what a scientist does when carrying out research. It will provide an excellent starting point.

The case theory in fraud cases should instigate four key investigative actions:​

  • Identify and secure the relevant material​
  • Identify and support the victims and evidence their loss and the impact they have suffered ​
  • Identify the offender and recover their criminal assets​
  • Ensure preventive actions are instigated to prevent repeat offending

Case management

Fraud investigations have the potential to generate large volumes of evidential and unused material, and the number of victims, witnesses, and suspects can grow to very high levels. ​

It is therefore important that the fraud investigator plans ahead to manage the case.

Develop an investigation plan

You may be asked to create an investigation plan or follow one. If this is the case, it is important to recognise the key areas that will need to be included.

  • Offences under investigation​
  • Objectives of the investigation​
  • Disclosure management document (CPIA 1996 Obligations)
  • Identification and location of suspects ​
  • Building an investigation team with the appropriate skillset
  • Main lines of inquiry, resources and intelligence​
  • Victim management ​
  • Opportunities for disruption and prevention ​
  • Multi-agency working, assets and restrained funds​

Working with victims

We briefly looked at working with the victims when we looked at the FIM. You will need to build on this further by developing a victim management strategy, which does the following:

  • Identifies all victims in the case​
  • Assesses the victim’s vulnerability and identifies a management process ​
  • Ensures a victim management strategy is documented ​
  • Maintains communication with victims, ensuring regular updates are provided ​
  • Complies with the code of practice for victims of crime and the Witness Charter​ (available at the foot of the page)
  • Identifies risks and makes management aware of these at the earliest opportunity​
  • Considers referral to other agencies where appropriate (eg, Victim Support)​
  • Manages the expectations of the victims


Betts, M.,J. (2017) Investigation of Fraud and Economic Crime Oxford: Oxford University Press

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
This article is from the free online

Fraud Investigation: Making a Difference

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now