I'm a CFE

Erin Reitz, CFE

Senior fraud risk analyst, Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland

Erin Reitz, CFE, knew early on that she wanted to work as an investigator in financial crimes and has worked tirelessly during her career to help people who are unable to help themselves. She’s now a senior fraud risk analyst at the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, a job that allows her to work with a team to help protect financial institutions and revenue collection for the U.S. Treasury. “I approach work with the same passion I have for helping others,” says Reitz. “Whether I’m helping a bank or government entity save millions of dollars or an elderly woman on a fixed income save a few hundred, I’m enthusiastic about the work I do and the people I impact.”

I was born and raised in Geauga County (near Cleveland), home of the country’s best maple syrup and the snow capital of Ohio. There was a stable across the street where I learned to ride and care for horses and clean stalls. I competed in show jumping competitions until I retired a few years ago.

When I was little, I remember wanting to ride professionally, then I wanted to be a veterinarian, then a lawyer. I discovered that working as an investigator was a pathway to risk management. I’m still not 100 percent clear on what I’ll be when I “grow up,” but I’ve laid the groundwork for a career in the financial crimes arena.

I was working as an entry-level analyst with the Ohio High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (HIDTA) and knew I needed more education to advance my career. I decided that I needed a master’s degree, but I couldn’t relocate to attend a brick-and-mortar school. The American Military University provided an excellent online experience in which I could complete several courses per semester while still working full time. The Intelligence Studies program is quite affordable and has multiple concentrations, which allowed me to focus on criminal intelligence and analysis.

I left Ohio HIDTA to pursue investigations at a commercial bank. I worked financial crimes investigations (fraud and anti-money laundering) for several years before being asked to switch gears and work in risk management. I spent several years developing a fraud governance program for the bank, writing the policies and standards that governed topics like fraud, identity theft, social engineering and elder abuse. I also had oversight responsibilities for the risks and controls associated with those topics.

I wanted to learn a different aspect of the banking world and the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland has a group that helps support the U.S. Treasury’s revenue collections. My fraud and risk management background was a good fit. My team and I:

  • Proactively monitor payment transactions and customer data for suspicious activity and possible fraud.
  • Identify and analyze fraud trends and communicate results to stakeholders.
  • Recommend fraud mitigation strategies to address vulnerabilities.
  • Develop and lead the implementation of fraud risk detection criteria.

While a fraud examiner needs many tools and skills, the ability to research and share information with peers is paramount. Research until you think you’ve found the end of the internet and then research some more. You never know when you will discover an apparently insignificant detail that could be critical for the case. Information-sharing with peers can be delicate given privacy concerns, but in general we all get better when we share our best practices and mistakes.

I’ve worked numerous cases in which I discovered posthumous online banking activity. Interviewing family members and/or power of attorneys (POAs) can be tricky due to the sensitive nature of the topic. Unfortunately, many times funds were being utilized by family members without authorization. Family members would justify their use of the funds by saying they took care of the person while they were alive. Or, the POA was unaware that their rights to the funds ceased at the time of the principal’s death. I found the best course of action was to lock the account(s) from use and secure all funds for the estate.

Obtaining my CFE credential has definitely opened doors. I wouldn’t have been considered for several work assignments without it. I’ve contacted industry peers for investigative assistance, and we’ve created a strong working relationship simply because we’re part of the CFE club.

Outside of work, I like to use my organizational skills to plan holiday meals and parties. I approach Thanksgiving, for example, as a project management challenge: I label the serving dishes, assign tasks and times, and create multiple seating charts (just in case someone unexpected shows up). Then I make family and friends suffer through the post-party-lessons-learned debriefing where we make adjustments for next year.

Emily Primeaux, CFE, is associate editor of Fraud Magazine. Her email address is: eprimeaux@ACFE.com.