For Aspiring Fraud Investigators and Forensic Accountants

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forensic-accountingI receive many requests for information on the field of forensic accounting, including questions on courses of study, certification, job opportunities, and preparing for a career.  Here are a few quick tips:

  • Establish a background in general business and finance/accounting. You need a good working knowledge of financial statements and the accounting process. The real world is different than textbooks.
  • Find opportunities to work on things that involve fraud. If you work at an auditing firm, make sure the partners know you’re interested in participating in fraud investigation. If you work at a corporation, get in touch with whoever handles investigations. Get any experience you can.
  • After you have a strong foundation, look for job opportunities that advance you toward your ideal fraud investigation position. If you’re in accounting, don’t take a dead-end accounting job that gets you no closer to fraud investigations. Look for the job that has the potential to move you into fraud investigations.

The most important thing is to start getting experience. Any experience.

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A Practical Fraud Investigation Course

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My biggest criticism of the courses on fraud investigation at the college level or in the continuing education space are that they are not practical. They all focus on theory and teaching about different types of fraud schemes. But who is teaching about how to actually do the investigation?

I am! Next month I am co-presenting a webinar series for National Association of Certified Valuators and Analysts (NACVA) called Scams, Schemes, and Swindles: Fundamentals and Techniques for Conducting Fraud Investigations.

It’s 3 hours a day for five days, October 14-18, 2019. These are live webinars, and you’ll be able to ask questions and participate in the discussion. Fifteen hours of learning how to REALLY do a fraud investigation from start to finish.

The focus will be on the nuts and bolts of conducting a fraud investigation, teaching practical forensic accounting techniques to prove what happened, who was involved, how much money is gone, and where the money went. Evidence management, analytical tools, presentation of findings, and testifying in court will also be covered. Watch this video to learn more, and please join us.

Auditioning For Paid Work

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Do you audition for paid work?

A forensic accountant does a preliminary analysis for free. An author writes an article for free. A professional speaker gives a speech or facilitates a session at a conference for free.

We can probably all agree that SOMETIMES it makes sense to do a free gig. There may be a group you haven’t been able to get access to before or an opportunity to earn money in other ways

But how many people abuse the privilege? They think their “exposure” is enough for you to spend your precious time and not get paid or your ability to provide pro bono services is unlimited. Continue reading

Being a Forensic Accountant

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If you’re new to the world of forensic accounting (also called investigative accounting), this video will give you an idea of the types of cases a forensic accountant might work on. There is quite a variety in the work, but most of it has something to do with fraud or litigation.

Follow the Money, Find the Fraud

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Forensic accounting existed quietly for a long time before the general public started to become aware of it. Twenty years ago when the frauds of Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco became big news, the work of forensic accountants was finally given the spotlight. It has been a slow evolution, but the general public is becoming more and more informed about what we do.

Would it surprise you to know that many of the techniques used by forensic accountants to investigate fraud and analyze the numbers are the same today as they were decades ago?

Computers have made things easier, as we can track, sort, and manipulate data faster. While software solutions for analyzing data, managing documents, and following the money are being used in investigations, they’re not being used to their full potential. This is obviously a missed opportunity for clients. Continue reading

Former Law Enforcement Working as Forensic Accountants

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A comment on an old article here inspired me to resurrect the topic today. Do former law enforcement officers make better forensic accountants? I think that having “former law enforcement” in your LinkedIn profile lends some credibility to the forensic accountant, but does it really mean as much as people think it does?

Certainly, experience in law enforcement (especially a lengthy career) can be helpful. There are skills that are learned and developed over time. But the question for the forensic accountant is: How much of that law enforcement experience was gained doing financial investigations? Were the investigative techniques relevant to private sector investigations? I’ve learned that digging through databases and resources available only to law enforcement isn’t the same thing as doing a deep dive into the numbers to unravel a complex fraud scheme. Continue reading

Finding Fraud Clues in the Notes to Financial Statements

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The notes to financial statements are often lengthy and boring. But they can provide very important information about a company.  On the most basic level, they provide details behind the company’s numbers. But they can also provide clues to fraud or other irregularities that may be occurring. Tracy gives a brief overview and a few examples of things you might find in these notes.

Forensic Accounting Specialties

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Why specialize when you’re a forensic accountant?

Forensic accounting is already a specialty within the broader field of accounting, so some people never consider that you can narrow down your practice even more. We focus on investigating numbers, but that doesn’t mean we have to do every sort of investigation out there.

I’m a firm believer that narrowing your focus helps you be better at what you do and get more (and better!) business. Continue reading

Qualifying as an Expert Witness

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You are only an expert if the judge says you’re an expert. No matter how many times you may have testified in court as an expert witness, each time you must prove all over again that you’re qualified to provide expert testimony.

In this video, Tracy Coenen talks about how she presents herself to the court as a forensic accountant so that she will be qualified to provide expert testimony. It is a combination of education, credentials, and experience.

Skills of a Fraud Investigator

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How do I become a fraud investigator? What skills does a forensic accountant need? I get asked these questions a lot, so today I’m going to give my thoughts on some of the important qualifications and skills a fraud investigator might have.

The educational background of a good fraud investigator can fall into a wide range of disciplines. Fraud investigators have degrees in accounting, finance, police science, law, and criminal justice. There is no widely accepted course of study for fraud investigators, although those degree programs that offer a strong foundation in accounting and finance seem to prepare students well for the numerical component of investigations.

Many excellent fraud examiners have a work history that is far more important than their educational background. On-the-job experience as a police detective, federal agent, insurance claims analyst, financial statement auditor, or financial analyst can lend itself well to a career in fraud investigations. It’s not unusual for practical experience in the field to play a much bigger part in the fraud investigator’s skills than any type of classroom training. The field of fraud examinations has an extremely varied range of educational and work experience. Other careers often have a few well-defined career paths, but the road to success as a fraud investigator can lead in many directions. Continue reading