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What is it like being a Forensic Accountant?

Job Descriptions September 24, 2013

The term “forensic accountant” certainly sounds exciting, since forensic work is usually associated with crime fighting work. This profession does involve some aspect of investigating accounts; anything from bankruptcy cases, to divorce cases, and to major fraud cases. This is a career that combines aspects of accounting and auditing, as well as the ability to interpret financial evidence. Ultimately, you will be giving testimonies in court and preparing statements regarding your findings.

The term “forensic” means the “application of science to legality”, especially in the context of courtroom law. Most often, forensic accountants are sent to investigate crimes against property, and this does often involve fraud. They might also work in civil disputes between individuals or companies. Another term for these professionals would be fraud investigators or fraud auditors.

In recent years, this career path has become more popular because of the efforts of these fraud investigators that resulted in the fall of Enron and other similar scandals. The government used forensic accountants to discover these instances of fraud.

What Will You Be Doing?

Forensic accountants have to be discreet when investigating companies, not to mention objective. Their first order is to review financial records, as well as the actions of company workers. Unlike traditional auditing, which involves investigating human error, as well as fraud, all of your activities will involve suspected cases of fraud. However, you are a specialty worker and must look beyond numbers, like auditors, and develop criminal hypotheses.

The procedures will actually follow the same basics of accounting, however, after meeting with a government official to discuss the fraudulent aspects of the case. Then you will be given access to search bank statements, credit notes, ledgers, databases, and even emails. You will be given the full scope of the case, for which to uncover new angles leading to a fraud conviction.

Beyond Bookkeeping

Sometimes, this involves conducting interviews with suspected personnel so as to catch a person in a lie or find other story discrepancies. Sometimes clues are relatively minor; for example, buying a new car, going on a vacation or funding a new business without any source of capital.

Of course, sometimes complicated cases require more intensive investigation. Sometimes, you will be working with police to gain access to additional records through warrants or interviews through subpoenas. You may also work with company assets and create graphs, charts and other financial data for presentation. Lastly, you may be asked to give litigation support in the way of consultation, advice, and coming up with questions to ask.

This is certainly a promising career, as well as exciting, especially when compared to traditional accounting paths. This will make you feel good about yourself, as you will be helping to track down criminal acts and restore justice and efficiency to the local and national economy. You will need CPA certification to work in this field, as well as traditional college graduate work in an accounting field.

It is time to start going back to school for accounting classes today! Talk to UMCP or another college about your options.

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