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Math Tree May Help Root Out Fraudsters

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Ray Patterson

University of Alberta researcher Ray Patterson found that a mathematical algorithm known as the Steiner tree could reveal social-network connections used to perpetrate fraud.

Credit: John Ulan

Researchers at the University of Alberta, University of Connecticut, and University of California-Merced recently outlined the connection linking fraud cases and the algorithm designed by Swiss mathematician Jakob Steiner, known as Steiner's Tree.

Alberta researcher Ray Patterson says that for crimes such as fraud, the fewer players in the scheme, the more likely it will be realized. Maintaining a small group of players also is what connects it to the Steiner tree, and Patterson says that by analyzing various connecting social networks--email, Facebook, etc.--learning the who, what, and how of the crime can be distilled into numbers. The researchers explored how networks such as phone calls, business partnerships, and family relationships are used to form essential relationships in a fraud investigation.

Once unnecessary links are removed and false leads are extracted, the remaining connections are most likely the best suspects. Finding the shortest connection between the criminals and the crime is the key to the Steiner tree, according to Patterson. "If you can reduce your legwork by even 20 percent, that has massive manpower implications," he notes.

From University of Alberta 
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Abstracts Copyright © 2012 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA 


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