Member Spotlight

Tyson Johnson, CFE

Investigator dives deep into digital data

Before even graduating from college, Tyson Johnson, CFE, CPP, VP of business development at BrightPlanet in Ontario, had spent hundreds of hours conducting surveillance, performing interviews, writing reports, conducting undercover investigations and even testifying in court. Johnson says that his passion for fighting fraud is something that he has always possessed. “I spent my summers and free time between studies working as a private investigator, cutting my teeth on suspect personal injury claimants for insurance firms,” Johnson said. “It started early in my life and has simply become part of who I am.”

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. Growing up in Canada, I had the good fortune of seeing much of the country as my family lived in both Ontario and Alberta throughout my youth. 

What steps led you to your current position?

I have always been passionate about “intelligence” and its ability to help nations, companies and individuals to make better decisions by identifying risks and opportunities. While in university, I knew I wanted to enter the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS). I was fortunate to be selected by CSIS, and I enjoyed my time with that organization. It was during my years as an Intelligence Officer that I obtained my CFE credential and also became aware of BrightPlanet. After departing CSIS I held progressively more senior risk management roles, starting with a global bank, and then two global manufacturing firms, before having the opportunity to join BrightPlanet. 

Did you always plan to pursue the role you are currently in?

Actually, yes. For the past decade I have used BrightPlanet's services. I began speaking with their leadership five years ago and stated that should they ever wish to move its business into the mainstream (diversify away from government contracts) I would be interested. The phone call happened about six months ago, and the rest is history. I am very excited to help my fellow CFEs with their online anti-fraud objectives.

What is your current role and what does it entail?

I am the VP (Head) of business development at BrightPlanet. Ultimately, that translates to being an anti-fraud and risk management practitioner with the opportunity to work with my peers to fight fraud more effectively in the face of an exponentially growing online information universe. For example, we help Big Pharma groups identify Online Pharmacies (OLPs) – more than 50,000 and counting. We look for fraudulent, counterfeit or diverted products, map the relationships between OLPs, payment processors and other participants. We create targeted packages for Big Pharma to use for law enforcement actions. 

How do you think online investigations have changed in the last five years?

Online investigations have changed and will continue to change as fast as the technology changes. Years ago, I remember conducting an investigation and obtaining an Anton Pillar (civil search order) to collect digital data devices for forensic review. That amounted to one desktop computer, one thumb drive and diskettes. Today, anyone looking to collect digital data will need to deal with laptops, smart phones, thumb drives, MP3 players, SD cards, Dropbox accounts, Gmail accounts and social media profiles, all while ensuring privacy laws, data ownership issues and other legal issues are properly dealt with. Not to mention the difficulties we face with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) strategies at the workplace. This happens when personal devices are used to access the internet within a secure environment and employees have access to confidential information. 

How do you think they will evolve over the next five years?

We are witnessing legal battles on the issue of what constitutes rights of a person as it pertains to the physical and digital self. Companies such as Craigslist are challenging the openness of the information on its site — claiming it is the property of Craigslist and cannot be accessed for any other purposes than as stipulated in the fine print. At the same time, the body of information grows exponentially throughout the deep web. Fraudsters know this massive amount of data is difficult to harvest and analyze at scale, so they often feel invisible and well protected as they perpetrate online fraud. Supporting the fraudsters, we are seeing an ever-increasing push for online shopping and banking. All actions we once performed in person will soon become the exclusive domain of the online world. Fraudsters have been perfecting their craft in online fraud ever since the internet was born 20 years ago. We can expect fraud to increase online, and our job is to leverage tools to fight the battle better than we do today.

Become rooted in the fundamentals of fraud investigation, but remain innovative and open to embracing changes in the legal and technological landscapes. Tyson Johnson, CFE

VP, Business Development – Private Sector, BrightPlanet




Oakville, Ontario, Canada

What career advice do you have for those just starting out in the fraud-fighting field?

Become rooted in the fundamentals of fraud investigation, but remain innovative and open to embracing changes in the legal and technological landscapes. Find a good mentor and listen to their counsel. Become a lifelong learner in fighting fraud and take pride in your work.

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?

I enjoy being with my family and watching my son play hockey.

ACFE membership is open to individuals of all job functions, industries and levels of experience who are interested in the prevention, detection and deterrence of fraud. If you want to level up your anti-fraud career, we can help.

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