How to Utilize Google Search Strings for Adverse Media Screening

Adverse media is increasingly important for financial institutions and global corporates. Google search strings allow users to screen a name of an individual or company against multiple search phrases at the same time. An investigator can use additional criteria to filter down the results of a very broad search in order to check if an entity has any results related with documented past crimes or negative news. Adverse media screening has become a significant part of customer third-party due diligence for a range of users that are increasingly utilizing both manual and automated approaches.

Major regulators (FATF; FinCEN etc) advised and often enforced adverse media screening of customers and other third parties. Financial institutions frequently go above and beyond these requirements, not only to avoid regulator scrutiny, but to safeguard their brand in a highly competitive market. Therefore, knowing how to utilize google search strings for adverse media screening is a crucial step.

So, what are some ways to consider for Adverse Media screening? 

One way to search for adverse media is through Boolean search. If you put the name in quotations, add "AND", and each search term separated by "OR", the search engine will pick up and prioritize all results that contain any of these keywords. Queries using keywords with modifiers such as “and”, “not”, “or” return relevant results. For example, typing ‘Customer name’ AND (crime OR corruption OR money laundering OR bribe) can give you an indication of any adverse media. This search engine is useful and free to use in order to identify adverse media. The adverse media screening is used to proactively review media for adverse information and safeguard the reputation of the organization during client onboarding and periodic reviews.

Are the results shown facts? 

Besides the Boolean search, if an AML analyst receives an alert for suspected financial activities involving a company, the analyst needs to obtain further information on the client in order to provide important context and rule out any potential false positives. After you have determined that the results from the google search string show your client, you then need to consider what the media is telling you. Regulatory or law enforcement reports of a client being convicted for a money laundering offense should be taken seriously and investigated. Along with other information that you have on the client, e.g., transaction data, reviewing the negative news can be seen as a trigger event for doing a customer review. 

Is the Google source credible? 

Some of the crucial considerations to review when determining the risk are the age of the news and events that occurred. Allegations over 10 years old will be less relevant as recent allegations.  The presence of adverse information on a client is an important component to carefully consider the relationship with the client and assess the risk that might come from the adverse data. 

Besides Google, other ways exist..

Other ways exist in order to ensure we are staying up to date with risk information. For example, it is necessary to search beyond the news media. Reports by non-governmental organizations, third-party sources, law enforcement agencies, and government agencies are often a go-to source to find risk information. Additionally, focusing on the access of international content and ways to overcome language barriers can assist in screening for negative news. International media focuses on reporting high risk incidents in local languages, which makes it difficult for English-speaking investigators to identify and screen for negative news. These functions along with google search strings are very useful to Sigma's own analyst team which assist in quality assurance and ensuring our internal news aggregators are catching critical events across key areas.

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