Questions for New Clients

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What questions do you ask a new potential client?

Nearly all of my work comes from attorneys, on behalf of their clients. I have two clients: the attorney and his/her client.

My questions are pretty much the same no matter which of them I’m talking to on that first phone call. The most important questions I ask are things like:

  • What kind of case is this – I am looking for some specifics of who is involved and what is going on.
  • What do you need me to do – Are they really in need of a forensic accountant, or do they need someone else, like a private investigator? Are they looking for services that I provide? For example, I trace funds in a divorce, but I do not provide business valuation services.
  • When does the work need to be done – I do most of my case work in 60 to 90 days.
  • That’s great for clients, but it also means that there are cases I can’t take because I’m already at capacity.
  • Can you pay my fees – This might sound impolite, but I have to earn a living. This is where I explain my fixed fees and the deposit I require. I may ask about their budget to ensure that we are on the same page. (Even though I can’t quote a fee this early, I often get a feeling for a range of fees.)

Figure out the questions that are most important in your practice, and be ready to ask them of any potential new client.

What is Money Laundering?

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Money laundering is fun to talk about. It just sounds cool to begin with. And the whole process is fascinating to me.

It is important to know that money laundering is not a fraud scheme. It is a crime that is committed to cover up other crimes, but it is not the same thing as fraud. The primary purpose of money laundering is to take money that has been received from criminal activities (dirty money) and make it appear legitimate (clean money).

Dirty money can come from illegal activities such as drug dealing, prostitution, robbery, bribery, illegal political contributions, tax evasion, or fraud. The laundering process hides the real origin of the money and makes it look like it came from a legitimate source. Continue reading

Making Forensic Accounting Accessible With the Divorce Money Guide

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The Divorce Money Guide has gotten rave reviews from divorce attorneys, financial planners, divorce coaches, and divorce financial analysts. I’m so excited to be able to make forensic accounting accessible to ordinary people in the process of divorce.

We all know how expensive it can be to hire a forensic accountant. So what happens to those people who know their spouse is involved in money shenanigans, but aren’t able to hire me?

The Divorce Money Guide is the answer. It teachers users what financial discovery is, what documents are needed, how to get them, and what to do with them. If you can’t hire a forensic accountant but need to dig into the numbers in your divorce, this is the next best thing. It’s do-it-yourself forensic accounting with expert assistance. Yes, I teach some very simple techniques for analyzing bank statements and tax returns that just about anyone can do, even if they’re “not good with numbers.”

If you’re interested in a preview of the kinds of things I teach in the Divorce Money Guide, join me on Thursday June 30 at 7:30pm Eastern for a free workshop called Red Flags of Financial Fraud in Divorce.

Keeping Forensic Reports Simple

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Making complex transactions easy to understand is no small task, but it is part of the job of any good fraud investigator. You can find the most earth-shattering proof of fraud, but if you cannot articulate your findings in a report that others can understand, your investigation results are not worth much.

Use graphs, charts, and tables to help illustrate your points. Even though you may not need a graph or chart to demonstrate your findings, consider that the reader of your report might benefit from it. Remember that people learn and comprehend in different ways, and that fact could be very important if your case ever goes in front of a jury.

One juror might understand your written words best, so it is important to make the report very reader-friendly with short, well-organized paragraphs. Other jurors might understand the most by listening to your court testimony, which should support and reiterate the written report. Other jurors might be most receptive to pictures or charts that demonstrate what you have found. Continue reading

Rules to Get Through a Tax Audit

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Tax audits are scary, especially if you’ve got unusual income or deductions. The assumption is that at the end of the process, you’re going to owe the government money.

You can help yourself in the audit process, however, by following 4 simple rules:

1. Shut up – You may think you’re helping by talking and volunteering information. You’re not. Even truthful answers can hurt you when talking to an auditor. The goal during an audit is to provide information but NOT raise additional issues or questions. There are right and wrong answers to the auditor’s questions, and the taxpayer often does not know the difference. Continue reading

Expert Witness Rebuttal Reports

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My favorite part of being a forensic accountant is rebuttal reports. An attorney comes to me with an expert report filed by the other side, which details some sort of economic loss. My job is to analyze that report and poke holes in it.

The things I will potentially criticize might include: Continue reading

Introducing the Divorce Money Guide

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In case you haven’t heard, I created the Divorce Money Guide to make forensic accounting more accessible to people getting divorced.
The Divorce Money Guide is a 10-step online handbook for those in the process of of divorce who suspect their spouse has hidden money or spent it inappropriately, but who are unable to hire a forensic accountant.

It helps users understand what financial discovery is, what documents are needed, how to get them, and what to do with them. The guide includes videos, written materials, and worksheets that will help users gather and organize their financial documents and dig into them to determine if there has been financial fraud in their marriage. Continue reading

What Does It Mean When a Company Changes Auditors?

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The firm that audits a company’s financial statements is very important. Audited statements are used by shareholders, lenders, and other interested parties to make decisions about the company and its future.

When companies change auditors, it can signal a few different things. There may be legitimate business reasons for making a change, but there could instead be problems within the company. Learn more in this video.

What Attorneys Should Know About Fraud

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Most attorneys don’t think about the issue of fraud in companies until a client (or their law firm) is hit by employee theft. It’s simply not one of those issues that is taken too seriously unless huge risks are identified or a crime has already been committed. Until then, fraud is just another “issue” that probably isn’t as pressing as other legal and operation matters.

Once a sizable fraud is committed and detected, everyone is in fire drill mode to get to the bottom of the issue. Everyone wants to find out who stole the money, how it was done, and how in the world someone could get away with this at “our” company! While this reactive attitude is very common, it’s not the best for the long-term health of a company.

Maybe the issue of fraud in companies is ignored because it’s not something that attorneys see everyday. Maybe it’s because issues like profitability and closing new deals are so much more important to the viability of a business. Yet fraud cannot be overlooked, as companies put their livelihood at risk when they do not take steps to deter and detect fraud. Continue reading