Liseli Pennings, CFE
Association of Certified Fraud Examiners
Austin, Texas, USA
Liseli Pennings is the Training Director for the ACFE. She was a Special Agent with the U.S. Treasury Inspector General’s Office for Tax Administration (TIGTA) and previously a career Special Agent and Diplomat with the U.S. Department of State Diplomatic Security Service (DSS) with over 16 years of service as a Special Agent. A Subject Matter Expert in fraud investigations, physical security, and protective security, Ms. Pennings has been a Law Enforcement Attaché in both Europe and Latin America, a Resident Agent-In-Charge in Texas, and managed teams of over 90 professionals, and managed multi-million dollar budgets and contracts.
I have some experience in the investigation/enforcement area; however, I don’t have an accounting or finance background. Will this hurt me in my plan to enter the anti-fraud field?
Most, if not all, frauds occur within or utilizing some form of accounting system, so a fundamental knowledge of how it all works saves investigators a lot of time if they understand these fundamentals. Training and further educating yourself in all aspects of fraud awareness, deterrence, detection and investigation is key. Knowing what you know, knowing what you don’t know and keeping up-to-date in both are critical to being an effective fraud examiner.
What specific skills should I highlight to prospective employers? What are they looking for besides a CFE/accounting background?
Highlight what you are good at, your past successes and things you had made an extra effort to learn on your own (i.e. training, etc.). Not everyone is an expert in all aspects of fraud examination. Be honest with what you know and can do, and emphasize those points.
What specific networking steps should I take to expand my network to include anti-fraud professionals?
Meetings, chapter social and training events, conferences and training seminars are great places to meet practicing professionals from all walks of life. There are key social media sites which are important to participate in, for example LinkedIn. Join discussion groups even if it’s just to look over the shoulders of those who are working an open topic. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a professional you might want to make contact with, and use current links and associations to broaden your network. Carry lots of business cards all the time.
I have a background in accounting, but would like to focus more on the law enforcement/investigative side of the anti-fraud profession. What are some ways to get my foot in the door of law enforcement agencies?
You may want to consider going back to school and focusing on criminology and other similar courses. Explore and research the different options so that you can make an informed decision about which type of law enforcement agency you want to approach: federal, state or local. Remember, this is a broad field in need of white-collar crime professionals, but it is a lot of work to change careers and it may require taking a step or two back before moving forward again.
Obviously, when a career change is made, there is also an impact on salary. What degree of impact can I expect as an experienced professional in one field as I transition to the anti-fraud profession?
It depends on what direction you decide to go. An “impact on salary” can be negative and positive, and it’s not always measured in dollars. You could take a cut in pay and move to a region where the economics are more favorable, lower housing costs, etc. so there is a lot to the equation. Make sure you are transitioning for the right reasons and in the right direction. Salary takes care of itself and should not always be the deciding factor.
A career in the anti-fraud field sounds interesting and could be a good fit for me. What suggestions do you have for getting a feel for whether or not it is the right career move?
Take some courses, read every newspaper article on fraud, attend meetings where anti-fraud professionals gather and talk to them about your interests. It is not all glamour; much of the work is tedious and time-consuming with little in the way of glamour. But, if you like solving complex puzzles, then the anti-fraud profession is a good field to be in.
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