Home Blog Criminal Investigations Harnessing the Power of OSINT to Fight Government Fraud


Harnessing the Power of OSINT to Fight Government Fraud

September 14, 2022

Fraudsters today, whether acting alone or as part of an organized, global crime ring, have stepped up efforts to target government benefits programs. Housing, food or disaster assistance and healthcare benefits have all shown to be attractive targets for fraudsters.

The dramatic outpouring of pandemic relief in 2020 saw an expansion of foreign and domestic criminal syndicates defrauding unemployment insurance and other benefits programs, robbing the American taxpayers of billions of dollars that should have gone to supporting struggling small businesses and workers who had lost their jobs, according to the Biden Administration.

In fact, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) estimates that cumulative federal improper payments–defined as payments that should not have been made or were made in the incorrect amount–have totaled about $2.2 trillion since fiscal year 2003.

To counter their activity, agencies need investigative tools and services that can detect where fraudsters are advertising their toolkits and techniques. According to Cobwebs Technologies’ whitepaper, Combatting Government Fraud with Open-Source Intelligence, open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools can give program integrity officials the visibility they need to understand how to mitigate attacks and help law enforcement identify the people and organized rings who are selling the fraud toolkits and resources.

Fraudsters and transnational criminal organizations are using the anonymity of the dark and deep web to conduct illicit activities and advertise their toolkits and techniques. To that end, OSINT has become an integral part of security and intelligence methodologies because of its capability to extract data from all over the web—including the open, deep, and dark webs, social media, and publicly available records.

OSINT: The Missing Investigative Piece

In the fraud detection and prevention sector, OSINT is helpful in identifying bad actors and minimizing the risks for government agencies and businesses. Using OSINT, investigators can identify illegal activity related to fraud, and uncover hidden leads in real time, according to the whitepaper.  For example, using open-source intelligence, analysts and investigators can uncover the sale of fraud toolkits and methods shared through online forums or through marketplaces.

Moreover, analysts and investigators need OSINT tools for safe and efficient data collection and analysis.Capabilities such as Natural Language Processing (NLP) and built-in transistion tools are essential since the content on open, deep, and online forums is often in languages other than English. Additionally, an OSINT solution needs to combine artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, automation, and predictive analytics to identify new schemes in the fight against fraud. All these methodologies, combined in one platform, give fraud investigators and analysts a streamlined tool to analyze and manage large volumes of data related to a fraud investigation.

“Armed with these capabilities, investigators can process and categorize big data into meaningful categories, learn from complex patterns, and identify abnormalities for a holistic view of criminal activities,” the whitepaper states.

Unmasking Fraudsters Online

OSINT combined with AI and other analytics, can reveal connections and specific threats to government programs. Analysts and investigators using automated AI and OSINT analytics, can identify fraud networks within minutes as opposed to lengthy manual research.

Investigators need access to advanced tools that provide visibility across all layers of the internet – both local and global, and the open, deep and dark web – to identify fraudulent activity. Additionally, they need an OSINT platform that can perform advanced pattern identification, as well as leverage keywords, hashtags and emojis to gain a more complete view of fraud activity. This type of proactive approach can stop fraud before it occurs, saving the government billions of dollars that can be used to help other programs and taxpayers, as well.

Today, fraudsters are more adept at creating their own interconnected networks, operating across government agencies, industries, and country borders. Learn how your agency can identify and mitigate threats, staying a step ahead of the fraudsters.

Read Combatting Government Fraud with Open-Source Intelligence for additional details.

About Cobwebs

Cobwebs Technologies is a global leader in AI-powered OSINT. Our mission is to protect global communities and organizations from crime, threats, and cyber-attacks, by providing seamless access to publicly available data.

John O'Hare

Lieutenant Johnmichael O’Hare retired from the Hartford Police (CT) in 2018. His career elevated investigative units that specifically attacked narcotics and firearms violence. In 2013, he was tasked with creating a Real-Time Intelligence Center that could support critical functions & provide analytical and forensic back support. He currently serves as a Business Development/Sales Director with Cobwebs Technologies with a focus on Threat Network Identification & Interdiction in the Web Intelligence Realm.



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