I'm a CFE

Tania Ramirez, CFE

Head of risk and audit at Randstad Canada and global lead, fraud investigations, Randstad Global

Tania Ramirez started her career as an internal auditor, working at such organizations as Canadian National Railway, McGill University and consultant Protiviti. She soon discovered she had a knack for uncovering dubious transactions. That talent catapulted her into the world of fraud investigations and landed her a dream job at Randstad, a global leader in the human resources services industry, where she now combines both skills to uncover cybercrimes, occupational fraud and other types of fraudulent activity.

I was born in El Salvador, but in 1980, my parents, three siblings and I fled the country due to the civil war. By the time I was 12 years old, I had lived in Costa Rica, the U.S., Mexico, and I finally settled in Montreal in 1987, which is my home to this day.

My hobby is writing, and I have been keeping journals since I was a teenager. When I was about six years old, I used to wake up early on the weekends, take out the dictionary and simply copy what was written on the page.

I had my first job at 9 years old as the cashier at my aunt’s corner store. I used to challenge myself to memorize the prices of as many items as I could. Math was my favorite subject, so I knew I wanted to do something that involved numbers. But initially, I wanted to be a secretary, and then an astronaut after watching the live coverage of the Challenger accident in 1986.

I currently hold two roles at Randstad, one as head of risk and audit for Randstad Canada and the other as global lead for fraud investigations. I conduct audits, ensure internal controls are in place, and act as a risk management advisor to the C-suite and other senior leaders on emerging risks and fraud trends. As we deal with the COVID-19 pandemic, keeping senior leaders informed of new risks is even more imperative. I also lead and support fraud investigations across Randstad’s markets in 38 countries. And for the first time in my career, I can use the three languages I speak fluently: Spanish, English and French. The most common types of fraud are occupational fraud and cybercrime. I also provide fraud awareness training to colleagues across the globe.

"When you have truth on your side, you have nothing to fear."

Confidentiality is key to fraud investigations. I treat all investigations with the utmost integrity and professionalism. I stick to the facts and leave no room for interpretation and certainly no personal opinions. People who know me will tell you I am very passionate about what I do. Integrity, honesty and trust are key values in my life. That is why I knew that working in fraud investigations was the right fit for me. Investigating fraud is about doing the right thing, and that’s what drives me the most.

Interviewing a witness or a suspect is not easy, and knowing the answers to your questions is key to success. Let the interviewee do most of the talking and observe the person’s body language. Be attentive when reviewing documents. The smallest detail, such as initials on an invoice, have led me to uncover bid-rigging schemes.

My interest in fraud investigations was first piqued when I conducted an internal audit on capital expenditures. As I reviewed about 50 vendor invoices, I noticed something was wrong, and when I laid them out on my living-room floor I realized they all looked the same. A pattern had emerged. The next day I met with the chief audit executive and the forensics team and presented my analysis.

I first heard of the ACFE early in my career when I was an internal auditor. But when I was offered a job as a forensic advisor in 2013 my contract stipulated that I qualify as a CFE, which I did in 2014, with no regrets! Having the credential opened great job opportunities and allowed me to work with seasoned fraud-fighting professionals. I also had the privilege to be the first Latin American woman to occupy the position of president of the board of directors for the ACFE Montreal Chapter. Finally, it has helped me expand my professional network, keeping me up to date with emerging fraud trends and risks. I have also made a few new friends along the way!

My advice to newcomers to the fraud-fighting field is to be passionate about what you do, believe in doing the right thing, don’t rush to judgment early in an investigation, be thorough in your work, ask as many questions as necessary to understand the situation (you don’t want to reach the wrong conclusion), trust your instincts but always stick to the facts and don’t forget about internal controls. (The internal audit team will want to know where the weaknesses lie.)

My personal motto is: “When you have truth by your side, you have nothing to fear.” (Wise words of my late father.) And my greatest achievement in life is my son, whom I had when I was 16. Every year on his birthday, I ask him: “When are your teenage rebellious years going to start?” He has just turned 29, and I couldn’t be prouder. He has surpassed my every expectation. He is a smart, honest, funny and just a good-hearted human being.

I am very passionate about women’s rights. I am very proud to have been one of the organizers of the One Billion Rising march in the city of Montreal. This is an annual event with the objective to stop violence against women and girls. Statistics show that one in three, or 1 billion women, experience violence in their lifetime. In 2017, I received an award for my 10 years of volunteering for the local volunteering community center.

Paul Kilby is editor-in-chief of Fraud Magazine. Contact him at pkilby@ACFE.com.