This expert schooled the CIA in detecting liars

By John L. Guerra

Editor, GRC & Fraud Software Journal

Janine Driver, expert lie detector.

Janine Driver, expert lie detector.

Federal fraud investigators seek Janine Driver for advice in spotting dishonesty in suspects during criminal interrogations. The energetic mom was for 15 years the body language expert for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms and also served as the resident lie detection expert for the FBI and the CIA.

Driver shares her expertise with fraud investigators in her book, You Can’t Lie to Me – a how-to on discovering dishonesty and duplicity in other people. Driver is also a lively and entertaining speaker who dissects human behavior with a mixture of humor and seriousness.

She points to facial tics, squirming, eye movement, posture, and other reactions under questioning to gauge the veracity of suspects who must answer questions from investigators. She cautions investigators that not everyone who displays nervousness is guilty.

I like that truth very much. Many honest and hard-working employees have lost traction in their careers because someone once decided they “acted guilty.” That’s why fraud investigators and skilled interviewers know that the interview is just one tool in the investigation toolbox. Hard evidence is what catches criminals.

A lot is at stake for the honest employee – job, reputation, in short - everything. Great fraud examiners know that honest employees are just as likely to display nervousness during the interview.

The standard licking of lips, shifting in the seat, shaky voice, inability to maintain eye contact – doesn’t always mean the employee is being evasive.

‘Perceived body language is dangerous,” Driver said during her June presentation at the 2015 Fraud Conference in Baltimore. “In one second we decide he or she did it, which is extremely dangerous.”

I had the pleasure of speaking with Driver for a few moments after her presentation, which also was titled, “You Can’t Lie to Me.” She’s a warm, caring and expert investigator who has studied how to stage interviews and get the honest results that are the hallmark of great investigations.

Here are a few suggestions she offers fraud investigators:

  • Prepare the interview subject to answer honestly. “Everyone tells me you always do the right thing. I am the same way, even when it’s not easy, I tell the truth anyway.”
  • The interview setting affects the kinds of answers you’ll receive. If you want to relax a subject, put them in a comfortable chair and hand them a warm cup of coffee. “A soft chair actually changes perceptions of others, helps people to relax.” On the other hand, a hard plastic chair lets the subject know they are in for a “hard-assed” interview. 
  • Before interviewing, fraud investigators should learn about the employee’s job duties, when they work, and as much about their financial situation as possible when interviewing top suspects. “That way you’ll know when they aren’t telling you something,” Driver said. 
  • For some subjects, practice your questions like you mean it. “All liars are walking a tightrope,” she said.
  • “A yawn, a dupe smile, or a giggle during questioning also are tells” indicating evasiveness, Driver said.
  • “Listen for those threes,” Driver said. Liars often use the number 3 when explaining a questionable situation: I checked the numbers three times; I left the room three minutes later; there were three checks left.

Driver launched the Body Language Institute to teach non-verbal communication skills to professionals to help them succeed in the workplace. On the flip side, the knowledge helps one spot manipulative co-workers, including how to dominate the office bully, how to stop the know-it-all from interrupting you, three steps to a killer impression and other great tips.

You Can’t Lie to Me, The Revolutionary Program to Supercharge Your Inner Lie Detector and Get to the Truth, is available at


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