Starting Out

The big four

Ideal traits for budding fraud examiners

In this column, we hear from a seasoned fraud fighter and educator who has some excellent advice on skill building for new CFEs and students. You can discover how to develop these essential core traits through a mentor relationship or by observing those professionals you admire. Of course, it'll take some practice and occasional self-examination, but these traits are a step in the right direction as you begin your career.  — Colin May

After 10 years as a forensic accountant, plus three years teaching fraud examination courses at a state university, I've become accustomed to fielding students' questions about what it takes to enter the fraud examiner profession.

Here are some of the most common questions: What should I major in? What courses should I take? How do I get into the profession? What kind of work experience should I obtain to be most competitive? These are important logistical questions, but they don't cut to the core. Students would do well to sharpen four traits early in their careers: fraud acumen, communication skills, curiosity and objectivity.

Fraud acumen

Think back to when you were in grade school. I distinctly remember my third grade teacher's lesson plans on mastering basic arithmetic. Throughout the year we had to take timed addition, subtraction, multiplication and division table problem tests. You couldn't move on to subtraction before mastering addition or division before mastering multiplication.

The culmination was a final test of all four. Those who passed received a trophy engraved with the honor of "Mathematician." Earning that trophy was a big deal. Basic arithmetic was only the beginning foundation for more sophisticated math to come (think algebra and calculus).


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