The demand for fraud investigators is on the increase. Not too many years ago, all it took to investigate fraudulent accounting was a CPA designation. Few CPA's actually specialised in fraud however. As the incidents of law enforcement needing expert witnesses and corporations needing fraud investigators began increasing, the need for a specialised training was met. Just over two decades ago, Joseph Wells founded the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. This organisation trains fraud investigators.
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Qualifications Needed to Begin Process of Certification
Becoming a certified fraud investigator is open to any persons who meet the qualifications to be accepted to begin the study program. The first qualification is that they must be a member of the ACFE in good standing. This is a yearly fee paid to be included on the rolls of all others interested in the study of fraud prevention.
The second qualification is that you must have a minimum of a bachelor's degree, or two years of professional fraud investigation experience for each year of academic study. That would be four years minimum experience in an acceptable fraud related field.
The third qualification is that you must be of high moral character and will be required to submit three letters of recommendation as to your character.
The final qualification is that you must agree to follow the Bylaws and Code of Professional Ethics of the ACFE.
The First Major Discipline
The first major discipline is the fraud prevention and deterrence. In this discipline you learn of what is called the 'fraud triangle.' When the three aspects of the fraud triangle come together, it is likely that fraud will occur. You will learn about why people commit fraud and how to prevent it. You will learn about the causes of crime, specifically white collar crime. You will learn about fraud risk assessment and be introduced to the ACFE code of professional ethics. A violation of any of these codes can strip you of your designation.
The Second Major Discipline
You will learn about fraudulent financial transactions and the indications that these transactions have been covered up. You will need to have an excellent understanding of accounting and auditing theory. You will learn about the 'fraud tree' or the major kinds of fraud crimes that are committed. These crimes are all linked by common factors that when understood can make the tracing of the crime back to the suspect all the more easier. You will learn about internal controls, the segregation of duties and other methods used to deter fraud.
The Third Major Discipline
The third major discipline is fraud investigation. This involves learning about interviewing and interrogation techniques. It involves being able to obtain information from public records or using bank statements and checks to trace illicit transactions. It involves thorough training in evaluating deception as part of the interrogation course. Body language and verbal cues are many times indicative of attempted deception. This discipline also involves the writing of reports that are professional enough to be considered an 'expert opinion' in a court case, and yet easy enough for a jurist with no experience in accounting to understand what crime was committed and the proof of it.
The Fourth Major Discipline
The fourth major discipline is the legal elements of fraud. You study the rules of evidence involving the chain of custody, you study the different aspects of an investigation in both criminal and civil trials. You study the United States Constitution to become familiar with the rights of the accused, the accuser and expert legal matters.
The test is on a CD-ROM. You are only allowed to take the test one time but the test is broken up into the four major disciplines. If you do not pass the first time, you must pay a fee to retake the exam. There is a practice exam for each section that will take you through 400 possible test questions, you can practice as many times as you wish. Once the exam is completed, you will e-mail the test file back to the ACFE where it will be graded. Once you have earned the designation, you will be allowed to use the C.F.E. designation for as long as you remain an active member of the ACFE organisation and maintain the required Continuing Professional Education classes on an annual basis.
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