The Field of Forensic Accounting

Particularly since the emergence of far-reaching financial scandals, and sweeping legislation like the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002, there has been a growing demand for the services of forensic accountants. These specially trained individuals possess fraud examination skills which can help organizations in the detection and deterrence of fraud.

For a forensic accountant to succeed in this dynamic and competitive field, four fundamental areas of knowledge should be mastered:

  • Criminology – What is the motivation for people who commit fraud?
  • Financial Transactions – In what ways can fraud be committed?
  • Fraud Investigation – How can fraud be detected and how should the information and evidence for fraud be collected and documented?
  • Legal Elements of Fraud – How does the law affect investigating and prosecuting fraud? What legal options exist to recover lost money?

Forensic Accountants combine their accounting knowledge with investigative skills, using this powerful combination for litigation support and investigative accounting. They may be employed by public accounting firms’ forensic accounting divisions, by firms specializing in risk consulting and forensic accounting services, or by attorneys, law enforcement agencies, insurance companies, government organizations, or financial institutions. Due to society’s heightened awareness and growing intolerance of fraudulent activity, demand for forensic accountants is rapidly increasing; due to increasing reliance on electronic and digital technology, further specialization in digital forensics is also on the rise.


Examples of fraud:

  • Money laundering
  • Insurance claims
  • Employee fraud investigations
  • GAAP violations
  • GAAS violations
  • Telemarketing fraud
  • Check kiting
  • Contract and procurement fraud
  • Asset misappropriation
  • Securities fraud
  • Financial statement fraud
  • Bankruptcy fraud
  • Credit card fraud
  • Embezzlement
Types of services performed:

  • Financial data analysis
  • Evidence integrity analysis
  • Computer application design
  • Writing reports
  • Compiling information
  • Testifying or consulting as an expert witness
  • Eliciting other experts’ assistance
  • Maintaining documentation
  • Damage assessment
  • Tracing illicit funds
  • Locating hidden assets
  • Due diligence reviews
  • Forensic intelligence gathering
  • Business valuation
Skill in or knowledge of the following areas:

  • Accounting procedures
  • Legal system and its procedures
  • Present value and discount rates
  • Regression analysis
  • Computer applications
  • Interpersonal communication
  • Oral communication
  • Written communication
  • Summarizing results
  • Research
Useful characteristics of a Forensic Accountant include:

  • Detail-oriented
  • Analytical
  • Professional skepticism
  • Professional judgment
  • Professional competence
  • Integrity
  • Objective
  • Independent
  • Credible
Education and Training

  • Bachelor’s and/or Master’s degree in Accounting
  • Additional education in Criminal Justice and Law Enforcement
  • Certified Public Accountant designation
  • Certified Fraud Examiner designation

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