The Profession: Q&A

Advice on breaking into the fraud examination field

By Colin May, CFE

Starting out: For new and budding fraud examiners

In the November/December 2011 issue of Fraud Magazine, we answered a number of questions from young CFEs, students, career changers and others interested in joining the fraud examination profession. Since then, more readers have emailed questions to us. If you're a budding or new fraud examiner send your questions to:


Q: I'm interested in becoming an insurance fraud investigator, but I don't have any law enforcement experience (although I do have a bachelor's degree in justice administration). I'm wondering how to get a job in the insurance fraud division of a local prosecutor's office. What should I do?

CM: If you want to work in the insurance fraud sector as an investigator, it might be a good start to actually work for an insurance company. Many fraud examiners don't realize how complicated insurance is (let alone insurance fraud) until they work their first case. I certainly didn't. By gaining actual experience as a claims adjuster, examiner or even a sales person, you will be more marketable to any law enforcement agency or a special investigations unit (SIU) of an insurance company.

Most of us didn't start out in our "dream job"; we had to build a résumé and the credentials that are experience-based, not just educational or training. Real-world, practical experience is critical. You may also want to volunteer with a local prosecutor's office to help them deal with fraud or theft cases so you'll have the fraud examination experience and practical skills to bolster your résumé.



Q:  My local ACFE chapter isn't very active. How do I use them to help me with my job search?

CM: Use the extended ACFE network. This includes not only the online member directory but also social media, including the ACFE forums at, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Work the phones and email fellow members to ask for advice and thoughts. Identify the companies or agencies that interest you and meet people who work for them. Become more involved in the chapter by helping organize training events or writing for the chapter newsletter, for example. Also, consider the benefits of attending the ACFE Global Fraud Conference. There you will meet a multitude of like-minded professionals who can help you think about your career. Every year, several federal agencies and other organizations have booths to discuss career opportunities. Also, the conference features résumé evaluations and talks by career professionals.


Q: As a police officer, I want to get into fraud investigation and become a detective. But I'm worried because I don't have the accounting background. Because money is so tight, should I pursue a master's degree first or get my CFE credential?

CM: The CFE Exam Prep Course® and materials are excellent ways to learn the accounting and financial investigation skills that will augment your law enforcement background. If you need to gain some accounting or business courses to help make you more marketable ... don't get into a masters program if you can't afford it and if it won't help you get to where you're going. Because you have criminal justice experience, you may want to hold off on the degree.

You could also explore accounting courses at a local community college. They're cheaper and will get you the credits you need. These courses can give you a sense of whether the business and finance side of fraud is where you want to be. I wasn't a good accounting student, but I used my classes to better understand the business organization and management of firms and how internal controls did (or didn't) work. Remember, fraud is about people, not simply the numbers. You could also explore graduate certificate programs in fraud examination or forensic accounting.

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