This regular feature includes brief interviews with various ACFE members from the UK and Europe sharing their views on fraud. This month's interview is with Simon Markham, CFE, a fraud investigator for EE, Ltd. in Duxford, Cambridgeshire.
What do your job duties involve?
I’m a Fraud Investigator at EE, which is the mobile phone operator that runs the T-Mobile, Orange and EE brands. We recently launched the only 4G network in the UK and we supply some pretty high-end handsets and very desirable mobile and data services. As such we are the target of fraud from both inside and outside the company. My role is mainly to conduct investigations into criminal acts (mostly fraud) carried out against the company from outside. This is usually organised attacks by groups who commit large-scale fraud to obtain high value mobile equipment. I work closely with the police and business partners to identify and frustrate the fraudsters by having them arrested or tightening our processes so the opportunity to commit fraud is removed. I can be involved in everything from carrying out surveillance, taking witness statements or conducting interviews, to having meetings to discuss control improvements when a weakness has been identified. I also get involved if the fraud is carried out by internal staff, but only if the nature of it is serious or shows signs of collusion.
How did you hear about the ACFE?
I saw that a former colleague who I have much respect for had gained the CFE credential. I was curious to find out more and so I visited the ACFE website and read all about it. I was very impressed by the variety of topics beyond my own field of investigation that is required to pass the Exam, but also by the fact that it requires you to continue to study in order to retain the credential. I recently took a course that was a straightforward pass or fail. There was no requirement to continue your learning or even keep your skills up to date, yet the qualification would still be yours forever more. The CFE credential seemed to have a lot more credibility in that respect.
You used to work for the Metropolitan Police and have a lot of experience -- what made you choose to become a CFE?
I worked at New Scotland Yard as a Senior Intelligence Analyst for a number of years and was involved in many high-level investigations. I joined the private sector 13 years ago as an investigator and have conducted many enquiries. I’ve interviewed suspects, given evidence in court, carried out complex fraud enquiries and built a wealth of knowledge and experience. It occurred to me, though, that if I ever decided to leave my current job then I have absolutely nothing that demonstrates all those years of hard work. In other words, I would be plain old Simon Markham, former fraud investigator. Now I have attained my CFE credential, that’s mine to keep and regardless of who I’m working for (or not) I will be able to say that I’m a Certified Fraud Examiner. I’m also lucky that my current employer recognises the importance and value of having a CFE working for them and they will allow me time to carry out my CPD and attend ACFE events. It’s also been really beneficial to me as recently my team moved places and has joined a bigger Internal Audit and Control department. The lessons I learned while studying for my CFE Exams have already been a great help to me. Myself and one other team member both qualified together and we have genuinely found that we are at an advantage over some of our other colleagues who aren’t CFEs when it comes to understanding how we can work together with our new audit and control coworkers.
How much study time did you take?
I had to fit my studying in around my day job and in the evenings. Because of the nature of this type of work it isn’t as straightforward as 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, so I set a realistic target to take my Exams. I tried to do at least one hour of studying per day and then planned to take the Exams after three months. Some days I was able to do a couple of hours, and others I struggled to manage twenty minutes. I opted to take the online CFE Exam Prep Course, which meant that sometimes I could even grab a half hour study session on my iPad while out and about. Towards the end of November through to the end of January work just got really busy and I was out most days so sadly my studying had to take a back seat. However I picked up the pace again in February this year and was able to take the Exams in March and passed them all first time. I would say that condensed down it took me about two months doing at least an hour a day.
When you're not at work tracking fraudsters, what do you do?
I have two young children so I like to spend as much time with them as I can. When I’m busy at work, say leaving home at 4 a.m. to go and do surveillance all day, by the time I get home I may be lucky to see them for an hour before they go off to bed. So when I’m not “catching criminals” (as my daughter likes to call it), I like to be at home doing the normal stuff. I also work part-time for a company called the Research and Intelligence Support Centre (RISC) as a teacher of Intelligence Analysis which is a throwback to my previous job with the Met. I’ve traveled as far as Australia and Mexico as well as throughout the UK to teach the police and other law enforcement agencies the tricks of the trade, and I really enjoy passing on knowledge that helps them do their job. We teach private companies, too, and I’ve met some really dedicated people involved in this type of work -- and I will now proudly be telling my students all about my CFE credential and encouraging them to study for it too!