Fraud in the News
In early July the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released June unemployment numbers that disillusioned legions of job hunters and employers all hoping for better news.
On July 2, Joshua Zumbrun of Forbes.com reported in his article, "The Job Market's Grim Picture," that at 9.5 percent, the unemployment rate was still on the rise and likely to reach 10 percent by the end of the year. In a July 14 article, "The Economy is Even Worse Than You Think," published in The Wall Street Journal, staff writer Mortimer Zuckerman broke the bad news that "job losses are ... now equal to the net job gains over the previous nine years, making this the only recession since the Great Depression to wipe out all job growth from the previous expansion." Though the unemployment rate dipped to 9.4 percent for July, the job market remains shaky.
For fraud examiners the news meant there would likely be a greater increase in fraud - especially those schemes committed by employees. According to "Occupational Fraud: A Study of the Impact of an Economic Recession," a study based on the ACFE's survey of 507 randomly selected CFEs, 48.3 percent of those surveyed said employee embezzlement has been on the rise. The study, which was distributed in February and March, showed that 55.4 percent of CFEs had seen an increase in the occurrence of fraud in the last year. Additionally, 48.9 percent had seen an increase in the dollar amount lost to fraud in the same period.
CFES WILL BE NEEDED
Companies that are trying to do more with less are generally more susceptible to fraud, which is why fraud is known to increase during a recession. Yet of the 261 in-house fraud examiners surveyed in the ACFE study, 59 percent said their companies weren't investing any more or less money in fraud-preventing internal controls. Only 16.9 percent said their companies were investing in fraud prevention, and more than 11 percent said they were actually decreasing spending in this area.
Tom Borgers, CFE, founder and president of the Felsen Network, predicts that trend will change. The Felsen Network is a national recruiting firm that specializes in placing CFEs, forensic accountants, and auditors at positions in Fortune 500 companies and consulting firms. Borgers said he believes companies will be hiring more CFEs in the next six months to a year to prevent or combat fraud in their organizations and to investigate those responsible for the financial crisis.
"We're the professionals who should be helping out the taxpayers, the government and the private sector because of our expertise," Borgers said. "If most of them had listened to CFEs in the first place, we wouldn't be in the fix we're in today."
BRIGHT FUTURE FOR CFES
The U.S. government has recognized the need for stronger oversight in its financial crimes sector and has already taken necessary steps to correct the situation. The Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act (FERA), which was signed into U.S. law on May 20, "provides government agencies with increased funding and more stringent legislation with which to combat financial and mortgage fraud," according to the Law.com article, "Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act Sends Law Agencies New Tools and a Message."
FERA offers several much-needed financial tools to government agencies that have had to do more with less during one of the biggest financial crises in American history. According to the Law.com article, "the funding [that comes with FERA in fiscal year 2010 and 2011] is earmarked for investigating and prosecuting financial crimes, including mortgage fraud, securities and commodities fraud, financial institution fraud, and other fraud related to federal assistance and relief programs."
That means there's a bright future for CFEs on the horizon. More money for fighting fraud will translate into many new jobs at key government agencies.
Borgers said demand for CFEs among his clients is high in four particular areas:
- Entry-level people (salary ranges from $50,000-$60,000)
- Major practice leaders (salary and additional compensation can be $1 million or more) - "To get one of these positions you have to be able to successfully demonstrate that you've brought in millions of dollars worth of business," Borgers said. "You have to be a major rainmaker."
- Private-sector jobs on the forensic side, like those that handle construction dispute litigation - "It's a very specific, finite specialty, so there aren't that many experts in the field, which means you can demand an excellent salary," he said.
- Experts on restructuring, turnaround, and bankruptcy - "These are in great demand around the country and command high compensation," he said.
Borgers recommends middle-management CFEs consider jobs in the government sector, even those that are only temporary, to further their career development.
Thanks to FERA, the FBI will receive $75 million and $65 million in FY 2010 and FY 2011, respectively. That means the agency "will be able to hire 190 additional special agents and more than 200 professional staff and forensic analysts, which will nearly double the size of its financial fraud program and enable it to expand the number of its mortgage fraud task forces from 26 to more than 50," the Law.com article states.
As a member of ACFE's Law Enforcement Partnership, the FBI will be seeking CFEs for these new openings, along with other key skills that could put a CFE at the top of the candidate list. An FBI recruiter wishing to remain anonymous suggested CFEs interested in applying for special agent or support jobs go to FBIjobs.gov first, then follow the link to USAjobs.gov. Doing so, she said, would focus the search on open positions within the FBI.
"If you have a CFE credential or an accounting degree and CPA, that puts you over the top," she said. "Any type of engineering [degree and experience] will put you over the top. But the No. 1 thing that will put you over the top is if you can speak a foreign language, too."
Foreign language skills also ranked high on the candidate wish list for Dennis Mook, division chief for Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) recruiting.
"We are looking for a diverse, multi-dimensional workforce that has the special skill sets we need to accomplish the NCIS mission," he said. "Foreign language skills, experience living overseas, and investigative and computer skills are important to us."
For Allen Chilson, associate director of talent acquisition and staffing for the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), the wish list is a little narrower.
"We seek candidates with career experience in compliance, regulation and audit environments in the securities or financial services industries," he said. "Educational backgrounds are typically accounting/finance, business, economics, law or technology."
Chilson said it's hard to predict the number of open positions that will be available at FINRA during the coming year, but there are still opportunities opening every month.
"The federal government is working as we speak on its plan for regulatory reform, and the expanded regulation could lead to growth in size for FINRA," he said.
PREPARE A PERFECT RÉSUMÉ
The FERA article at Law.com listed the U.S. Attorney's office; the Department of Justice criminal, civil and tax divisions; the Postal Inspection Service; HUD Inspector General; U.S. Secret Service; and the Securities and Exchange Commission as government agencies guaranteed to a multimillion-dollar increase in funds. That will make for many new fraud-examination jobs. But even with the promise of an oncoming hiring bonanza, you should be especially meticulous in how you present yourself to potential employers. It's a good time to update and upgrade your résumé.
Borgers said the very first and simplest thing you should do is place all your credentials and educational titles right next to your name at the top of your résumé. "Let them know right away who you are - especially if you're a CFE," he said.
Next, he says it's imperative that you create a résumé tailored to each company and position for which you're applying.
"So many CFEs have used their same résumé for every single position they've ever applied for," he said. "I tell my candidates, for example, 'You're applying for a supervisory position on the mortgage fraud side. So highlight all the mortgage fraud investigations you've done and anything related to that specialty. If you have room, put the other types of investigations down, but focus on the key points of the job you're applying for.'"
Borgers said not to worry about length - if you're working with a recruiter, that recruiter can help you scale it back if need be. However, if you're not using a recruiter, don't go over two pages, max, said Allan Greggo, CFE, CPP, associate vice president of loss prevention for a major retailer.
"Remember that the résumé is your introduction and sparks the interest in your accomplishments and experience - it gets your foot in the door, and the interview is where you can expound on all the details," Greggo said. "Try to keep your résumé to one page, two at the most. If I receive a three- or more-page résumé, as the hiring manager, I'm not going to read it all."
To address this, Borgers suggests you put the most relevant experience near the top of the résumé with brief descriptions of your job duties, then bullet out the jobs that are less relevant near the end of the résumé. But Mook says it's also important that you clearly articulate your knowledge, skills, and abilities because those will be what the employer is most interested in.
"Ensure your résumé really reflects what you bring to the table," Mook said. "Don't be afraid to detail what your education, experience, and skills really mean to a company."
Never lie on your résumé, Borgers says. Of course, as a fraud examiner that seems an obvious rule. But Borgers warns that some career coaches are actually suggesting to CFEs that they eliminate old work experience so they can "appear younger" on paper.
"I've heard from more than one CFE that some of these career counselors are telling them that because they have so much experience, they should drop their experience to make them appear younger," he said. "I tell them, 'No, you can't do that. That's one of the things that all my clients look for is a truthful and complete résumé.'"
Chilson said you should only apply for jobs where you meet or exceed all the job requirements listed in the job advertisement.
"It's never a good idea to submit [your résumé] to a job where you have less experience or education than the job specifies, or where you're clearly missing one of the required skill sets," Chilson said. "The recruiter will be looking at dozens - maybe hundreds - of résumés, and will only be reviewing them for that specific opening."
Borgers said a résumé with a crisp, clean design will make it to the top of the pile. He suggests you list real numbers with your achievements to serve as concrete examples of your accomplishments. Also, keep jargon to a minimum.
"Don't use your own jargon," he said. "The recruiter or company might think you're not qualified even though you're talking about the same things. I've had a lot of candidates who, for example, said they were 'risk investigators,' but they were really 'fraud investigators.' Even though you might've been known as a risk investigator in your old office, it's not like you're lying; it's just that different companies use different labeling. You can put down the exact title you held, but in the description say something like, 'I was responsible for all the fraud investigations.'"
Another way to set your résumé apart from the pack, Borgers said, is to include a simple cover letter that clearly demonstrates why the employer should pay special attention to your résumé. "Cover letters do serve a purpose, especially for me, if they're well constructed," Borgers said. "If a candidate sends me an e-mail or letter and they say right up front exactly why they're the top candidate for this position, and they've really focused on developing a good paragraph to paragraph and a half, it can work wonders."
Borgers said the paragraph should explain to the employer or recruiter exactly how your experience fits the requirements they advertised with the job. But he said to be sure your letter is focused, just like your résumé, on the job for which you're applying.
An employer's first impression of a candidate is very important - both when they're looking through résumés and when meeting the candidate in person for the first time.
All recruiters advised that you "be prepared" when you enter the interview. Study the company's Web site, review the position details, and read the company press releases; make sure you know everything there is to know about the position and the company before you meet the interviewer.
"If you research the position - that shows initiative," the FBI recruiter said. "It shows you're interested in the position. Also, if we ask certain questions, you'll know what we're talking about."
Once you know everything you can about the prospective employer, Mook said you should "find a way to work that knowledge into the interview."
You should also have a dress rehearsal the night before, he said. "Visualize the process" so that when it comes time for your interview, you can "act like you really want the job," Mook said. All recruiters agree you should dress business professional for all interviews - no exceptions.
"You've heard of dress for success," Greggo said. "This is when to do it."
Borgers said you should also "watch your body language."
"So many hiring decisions, believe it or not, are done within the first minute or so," Borgers said. "It's true; so when you go in there, give your best handshake or smile and be sure to focus on the interviewer and what they're saying. Give crisp, concrete answers. Before you leave, be sure to ask what's going to happen next and avoid talking about compensation; you'll know when it's the right time, but wait for it."
When you do get around to discussing salary with your prospective employer, Borgers recommends you weigh the pros and cons of accepting a lower salary, and keep in mind the current state of the economy.
"Make sure your reason for taking a lower salary makes sense to both you and the prospective employer," Borgers said. "For example, if you're moving from a Big 4 consulting position where you are on the road 50 percent or more a year to a solid Fortune 500 company with little or no travel, an appropriate comment would be that you're willing to take a cut in salary for the company's work/life balance and reputation."
Chilson said you should take your cues from the interviewer and wait until he or she asks you to elaborate.
"Most interviewers have a list of questions they are trying to get through in a limited amount of time," he said. "If you run long on one question, it's likely they won't get through all the questions."
Last but not least, Chilson said you should ask your interviewer for his or her business card so you can send a thank-you note.
"The best way to do this is via e-mail, and you should do it within 48 hours of the interview," he said. "Try to highlight something specific about your interview time with each interviewer to include within the thank-you [note]. It shows it is personalized and not just a template that you are sending to each person you have interviewed with."
Companies are being extremely picky about new recruits, so Greggo advises that before you even send your résumé, you take a good, hard look at all the information available on you on the Web.
"Be very cognizant of what is out there on the Internet sites like Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, etc. about you," he said. "Hiring managers are going to be looking. Be professional and interview with integrity."
BE READY TO ANSWER THE CALL
According to the ACFE's "Occupational Fraud: A Study of the Impact of an Economic Recession," 59 percent of the 261 respondents who were in-house fraud examiners said layoffs were pervasive at their companies. More than one-third of them said some controls have been eliminated as a consequence. Only 3 percent said their companies increased internal controls after layoffs.
With the increased financial pressure placed on remaining employees, there's never been a better time for companies to increase their internal controls and retain their fraud-fighting staff. Thanks to new legislation like FERA, it can only be a matter of time before all governments and corporations around the world follow by example and seek new CFE recruits for their fraud-fighting teams.
Amy Logan is assistant editor of Fraud Magazine.
Are you a fraud examiner looking for a new job? The following sites offer a plethora of job opportunities in your field of expertise:
GENERAL SEARCHESIf you're looking for something specific in a certain area, try www.indeed.com. It searches all the major job boards like CareerBuilder and Monster, and also searches the classified sections of all major newspapers in the area you specify. Its "one search, all jobs" approach can be very helpful in your job hunt. A list of other countries and continents is located at the bottom of the opening page on Indeed.com to assist you in your international job search. Happy hunting!
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