Fraud investigation came in to the limelight in 2020 when states found themselves in the position of recovering millions of dollars of fraudulent unemployment claims, much of them originating overseas. However, their services are in-demand many places, and have been for years.
Fraud investigators help organizations stop fraudulent payments and recover losses. They are utilized in many organizations in the private and public sectors. Carlow University lists accounting firms, corporate security and risk management, and governmental agencies among the potential employers.
Fraud investigators may be hired in-house or work under the banner of investigative agencies. Some work as private investigators. The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes insurance fraud among the areas which investigation agencies provide training for.
Private sector fraud investigators focus on internal and external fraud. Duties can vary a good deal based on employing entity.
Professionals can pursue specialized careers in auditing, investigations, or risk management and compliance.
Martin Investigative Services, a California-based company, list multiple fraud cases among its ‘best cases’ (https://www.martinpi.com/category/the-case-of-series). Among them: an insurance fraud perpetrated by a high-level executive and a fraudulent order for millions of dollars of computers.
Fraud investigator is typically a bachelor’s level occupation (as are other related financial occupations).
Increasingly, fraud investigation is being recognized as an academic discipline.
A student at the State University of New York-Albany conducted a study to compare fraud detection ability between individuals who had had forensic accounting classes and those who had had only non-forensic accounting courses (https://scholarsarchive.library.albany.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1009&context=honorscollege_accounting). Their responses were scored ‘blind’ by a forensic accounting professor. A large difference was found in performance between the two groups.
Students can opt for degree programs or undergraduate or graduate certificates. Fraud and related crimes are sometimes included as an accounting concentration. There are significant differences in curriculum between programs.
Professionals can be considered for admission to graduate programs in fraud detection even if their undergraduate work was in a significantly different discipline. There may be multiple discipline-specific prerequisites.
Fraud Detection Programs
West Virginia University offers an M.S. in in Forensic and Fraud Examination. WVU has had a unique role in program development at the national level. The 30 credit hour program can be completed in as little as one year. It is housed in the John Chambers College of Business, an AACSB-accredited school. It includes four courses that build general business skills and six courses that focus specifically on forensic and fraud investigation (FFE). The FFE courses are taught using a simulation approach.
Utica College offers a B.S. in Fraud and Financial Crime – it was the first school in the nation to offer one. The program is available on campus or online. Fraud Prevention and Detection is one of two available tracks. The following are among the courses: Fraud Prevention and Detection Technologies, Introduction to Risk Management, and Fraud and Compliance Operations.
Carlow University offers two different master’s degrees options for different student needs. There is an IACBE-accredited MS program. It is classified as a law and criminal justice degree and includes a course in psychological dimensions. The MS program is available in an online accelerated format. There is also an MBA option. Also available is a case-base graduate certificate program. Certificate coursework can be applied toward a master’s.
Wake Technical Community College provides an overview at the undergraduate level: a Fraud Examination Certificate. This program, too, is available on campus or online.
Professionals may pursue general or specialized professional certifications.
The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential is available from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Examination eligibility is determined by a point system. Professional and educational experience are both considered. Individuals who have close to the required number of points but are not quite there can be approved to take the examination. Certification is dependent on having at least two years of qualifying experience.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners can accept professional experience in a range of disciplines, with stipulations. Many accounting and auditing professionals would qualify. Criminologists and sociologists could qualify on the basis of experience with fraud and white collar crime. Security directors and consultants involved in loss prevention may be eligible; security guards involved with loss prevention would not be.
CFEs have an annual continuing education requirement.
The Certified AML and Fraud Professional (CAFP) is available from the American Bankers Association (ABA). There are multiple eligibility pathways. All require some experience in a qualifying field. Some candidates will qualify on the basis of professional experience alone. Professionals can qualify more quickly if they have completed an ABA certificate program. Related certifications are also considered.
Accountants and auditors averaged $79,520 in 2019; this is based on an hourly figure of $38.23.
Private investigators and detectives averaged $57,000 (based on an hourly figure of $27.40).
Many professional resources are available through the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.
For Further Reading
Leonard, Michele, “The Impact of Fraud Education on Fraud Detection” (2014). Accounting. 10. https://scholarsarchive.library.albany.edu/honorscollege_accounting/10