Students Must Show Passion for Fraud Fighting

Investigator Shares Tips for Budding CFEs


richard_hurley-50x50.jpg   Fraud EDge 

As a session panelist at the 20th Annual ACFE Fraud Conference & Exhibition, I asked the audience: “What makes a certain résumé stand out among the many submitted for a position in forensic investigations?” I quickly received an answer. “The student must have the passion to fight fraud,” said Doug Cash, CFE, CFI, CFCI, who’s a manager of forensic accounting and investigative services at Eide Bailly in Golden, Colo.


I was intrigued by Cash’s excitement for the profession, so I interviewed him after the conference. I want to thank Cash for taking time to share with us his professional views and personal tips for students.

“The passion to fight fraud is not something that can be taught; it must be lived,” Cash said, adding that a student “needs to take an active part in learning about fraud.”

Students should jump-start their careers early, he said. They “should be willing to go beyond their comfort zone,” even if it means taking “a part-time position in order to learn the company and how to investigate fraud.”

Also, he said students should become ACFE student associate members to learn fraud-fighting techniques and meet CFEs who are passionate about their work. Undergraduates taking at least nine credit semester hours (or the equivalent) or graduate students taking at least six credit semester hours (or the equivalent) in an accredited college or university pay a small amount for dues. Student associate members receive a one-year subscription to Fraud Magazine, a free edition of the Fraud Examiners’ Manual, and a free ACFE T-shirt. 

Students also can purchase a special package that includes the CFE Exam Prep Course, one year of membership (which includes access to all ACFE resources and, most importantly, the career center), and the CFE exam – a $990 value for only $350. Eligibility is primarily for ACFE student members who are seniors or in graduate school. Faculty members should also encourage students to start student ACFE chapters on their campuses. Check out to learn more.


It might seem obvious to educators, but Cash is still amazed that so many interviewees for positions at Eide Bailly haven’t researched the firm. He has two recommendations for educators: No. 1: Demand your students research the companies at which they’ll interview. No. 2: Insist your students understand the concepts behind the word forensics, and how they relate to accounting. Forensics, according to Cash, is a concept that has to do with inspecting the “smallest item ... Forensic accounting is looking for that smallest transaction that was the start of the problem.”


Cash suggests students apply for summer internships with firms that have forensics divisions so they’ll have the experience to work in similar departments when they graduate.

“Students must realize that in many firms it is very difficult to move from tax or audit departments into the forensics department,” Cash said, because when an employee gains expertise in a “core function of the business” a firm might be reluctant to have that person transfer into another core area because of the added expense.


Cash has a law enforcement background, so he suggests students should take a wide array of investigative courses. “Students [should] look to the criminal justice area of the college for electives,” he said. “Most accountants,” Cash said, “aren’t used to asking ‘why.’ By taking classes in the criminal justice area, students will be forced outside their comfort levels into a world in which the ‘why’ is what the investigator is always looking for.”

He also suggests courses in criminal law, crime scene investigation, computer fraud, and interviewing techniques. If a student’s school doesn’t offer these types of courses, community colleges are an option. Other courses for the well-rounded, budding fraud examiner include accounting, computer systems, database management, economics, finance, psychology, and statistics.


Cash and I both agree that writing and speaking skills are essential for reporting to clients and testifying in court. A fraud examiner must know how to carefully and thoughtfully answer a defense attorney’s cross-examination questions. Cash suggests that students should view live court proceedings to see exactly how “witnesses handle the stress of testifying.” Students in some school programs participate in mock trials before attorneys.


The CFE is the most important credential and has been for many years,” Cash said. Students are allowed to take the ACFE courses including those that teach interviewing skills. (See the “Training & Events” area on Also, Cash said the Certified Forensic Interviewer credential can help fraud examiners become better interviewers.

The fraud-fighting field is constantly changing parameters, so Continuing Professional Education won’t simply be hours that prospective CFEs will have to earn, but a lifestyle.


Cash said there’s only one way to advance in a firm: be ready “to do whatever it takes to get the job done: working 10- or 12-hour days for extended periods of time, working weekends, and be willing to travel.” He said new employees shouldn’t be “afraid to ask that tough or extra question” or to inquire about not only how something took place, but why.


“A job is done at the end of day and a career is not,” Cash said. “The person who looks at this as a career will be … asking what else they can do when they have finished their last project and not sitting back waiting to leave for the day.”


Thanks to those who attended the Eighth Annual Educators’ Fraud Meeting during the ACFE Fraud Conference in Las Vegas. It was a pleasure meeting everyone and learning about your backgrounds, fraud interests, and course offerings. Special thanks to William Kresse, J.D., CFE, CPA, associate professor and director of graduate programs in fraud examination at Saint Xavier University, for working the room with microphone in hand and making sure all attendees became part of the dialogue.

I also want to thank George Curtis, J.D, ACFE Educator Associate, dean of the School of Business and Justice Studies, and executive director of the Economic Crime Institute at Utica College, for his presentation on the integrity of student work submitted for online courses.

Thanks also to Mary-Jo Kranacher, MBA, CFE, CPA, editor-in-chief of The CPA Journal at the New York State Society of Certified Public Accountants for her status report on the ACFE’s Institute of Fraud Prevention and the Journal of Fraud Studies. Kranacher is also a professor of accounting and an ACFE Endowed Professor of Fraud Examination at The City University of New York – York College.

This year our meeting also featured an appearance by a special advocate for fraud educators: Joseph T. Wells, CFE, CPA, founder and Chairman of the ACFE. The educators presented Wells with a unique form of appreciation: a large card with written words of wisdom from fellow faculty members.

Many thanks to Keely Miers of the ACFE, who coordinates the ACFE Anti-Fraud Education Partnership, for helping organize the meeting, and to Tina Tripoli, ACFE membership director, and Alani Mundie, CFE, international law enforcement liaison for the ACFE, for providing updates on membership and anti-fraud education partnerships. We’ll meet again during the 21st Annual ACFE Fraud Conference & Exhibition July 25–30, 2010, in Washington, D.C.

Richard Hurley, Ph.D., J.D., M.S., CPA, ACFE Educator Associate Member, is an associate professor in the University of Connecticut (Stamford) School of Business.  

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