The ‘Fraud Squad’ diaries: behind the scenes of BBC1’s fraud series
Robert Brooker, head of the Fraud and Forensic services, is currently appearing in a BBC1 TV series. In this article, he explains how the programmes were put together and the impact that his appearances have had.
I was sat at my desk at home last June, when I received an email asking me if I was interested in providing some insights and advice on fraud-related matters for a BBC1 TV series presented by Michelle Ackerley, of ‘The One Show’ fame.
“Sounds interesting,” I thought, so I indicated my willingness to get involved.
After a short Skype call with a researcher, I was invited for filming early the following week somewhere in London. “This could be interesting,” I concluded, “perhaps we’ll use the BBC’s Television Centre, Pinewood or Elstree. You never know who I might bump into!” I was really looking forward to this now.
I received a call the day before filming was due to start, telling me to report to the producer’s home - admittedly a lovely home, but not quite what I’d led myself to expect. I wasn’t going to bump into anyone famous here! Anyway, I arrived to meet the film crew (although no make-up artist, sadly) and was ushered into a small attic room with extremely hot lights either side of me…on what turns out to be the warmest day of the year. So much for trying to appear cool and unruffled!
I’ve worked in the fraud profession for over 25 years, but being put in front of camera threw me off guard. It didn’t help that I asked during the interview to answer with short sharp responses in a dramatic way, to emphasise the seriousness of the frauds that had taken place. Anyone who knows me will appreciate that keeping my answers short is not something that comes naturally to me.
To my surprise, I was invited back for more filming later that week. This time, I was asked to walk around outside whilst being filmed. Sounds relatively simple – but it wasn’t. I was instructed to walk purposefully, looking ahead and at just the right pace…on a cobbled street. You can guess what happens next. As I’m walking on the same bit of path for the fifth time at the right pace, looking around, head held high…BANG…over I went. I found myself sympathising with those poor souls who end up on outtake programmes like ‘It’ll be alright on the night’.
To my continued amazement, I was informed a few weeks later that the Beeb really liked what I had done and that I’d made the final cut. The series, ‘Fraud Squad’, is currently being screened (BBC1 on weekday mornings at 9.15am and on iPlayer, in case you’re interested), and I appear in five of the 10 episodes.
If you’re interested in these sorts of things, you’ll notice that the small attic room has been converted into something that resembles a traditional courtroom, with vaulted ceilings and wooden benches. The magic of green screen technology!
I was too embarrassed to tell my friends and colleagues about the filming – but that hasn’t stopped them spotting me and getting in touch. The comments I’ve received from people in the industry have been particularly gratifying, complimenting me on talking sense and showing I clearly know my subject. That – together with the role the programme plays in highlighting the scourge of fraudsters, and encouraging people to take care and report their suspicions – made the hours in the hot attic and the cobbles feel worthwhile.
To top it off, I’ve been contacted by two potential new clients, via PKF Littlejohn, asking to speak with me as they have seen me on TV and wanted to know if I can help. It’s early days but there may be an opportunity whereby we can help prosecute the perpetrators either via law enforcement or private prosecution, and recover the monies lost by tracing the assets of the fraudsters and realising them by the civil route.
If you want to know more about the sort of work I do, and how it can potentially benefit you or your business, please take a look at the relevant pages on our website or get in touch.
P.S. I want to thank Brown Bob, the production company behind ‘Fraud Squad’, for kindly making a donation of £100 to the London Fraud Forum. The Forum, of which I’m Chair, is a not for profit organisation that brings the public and private sectors together to fight fraud.