Prepare for the unknown

Stay safe in the office or on the road

By Heiko Giesberg, CFE, CPA; Joseph Agins, CFE

At its core, the fraud examination profession isn't dangerous. However, fraud examiners can take precautions to lessen possibilities that potential fraudsters might become angry or aggressive during interviews. Here are steps fraud examiners can take to be safer when conducting examinations domestically and abroad.

Any list of dangerous occupations would at the least contain firefighters, construction workers and police officers. However, just about any career can lead to a potentially hazardous situation, and this doesn't exclude the fraud examination, auditing and investigative professions.

In November 2013, a U.S. government audit found that the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) failed to perform required security assessments at more than a dozen of its facilities, which placed employees at risk. (See Audit finds IRS put employees at risk of attacks, by Josh Hicks, Daily Times, Nov. 18, 2013.) According to a report released by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), threats of violence against IRS workers and facilities have increased "during a time of continued financial hardship," and the agency is a "target for those who are angry at the tax system or the government."

According to the Daily Times article, a separate TIGTA report on IRS management said that the agency processed more than 8,600 threat-related complaints between 2009 and 2012. "The IRS may have security vulnerabilities that are not identified in a timely manner, thereby placing IRS employees and taxpayers at risk," the report said.


As a result, the IRS agreed to implement seven recommendations offered by the inspector general in an effort to tighten security measures, according to the separate TIGTA report.

It's inevitable that CFEs will have to deal with threats similar to those found in the TIGTA audit. However, we can identify and mitigate vulnerabilities before we begin fraud examinations.

Additionally, when we embark on work trips — foreign and domestic — we can encounter a multitude of dangers.

As CFEs, we'll sometimes face challenges much greater than the investigative assignment itself. Therefore, we should ask:

  • How should I plan for my safety?
  • When am I asking for too much?
  • Should I try to be the investigative hero and put my life at risk at the expense of another person's illicit gain?

We often have to interview employees suspected of wrongdoing. Conducting interviews correctly can help ensure that you won't make things worse or even potentially deadly.


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