Nigel Lake — You may never have heard of a forensic accountant, but you’ve undoubtedly heard of the things that they do. When criminals like Bernie Madoff hurt the public, it’s often a team of forensic accountants gathering evidence behind the scenes in order to help convict the person. Knowing a bit more about forensic accountants may help you appreciate these often unsung heroes.
What is a forensic accountant?
The field of forensic accounting is an integrated one. Forensic accountants combine traditional accounting and auditing skills with investigative skills. Forensic accountants are able to see beyond the numbers and deal with the business implications of white collar crime. In addition to their daily investigative duties, these professionals are trained in court testimony, often acting as witnesses for law enforcement and victims in court proceedings.
Forensic accountants are often tasked with the responsibility of investigating financial inconsistencies and analyzing the evidence. These professionals also develop software applications, communicate their findings to business owners and law enforcement agencies, and assist in legal proceedings. Because forensic accountants must be knowledgeable about legal concepts and procedures, these people must also keep abreast of the latest financial laws.
Who uses forensic accountants?
Though anyone can utilize the services of a forensic accountant, these professionals are often retained by the same agencies frequently. Law enforcement agencies, lawyers, insurance companies, banks, governmental bodies, courts and businesses typically retain the services of forensic accountants.
Working with a forensic accountant
When an agency hires a forensic accountant, they can expect a typical process to take place. A forensic accountant will want to meet with the client in order to gain an understanding of the facts of the case. The accountant will perform a conflict check and an initial investigation. Once more facts are gathered, the accountant will develop a plan of action that will enable him or her to carry out an effective investigation. Facts will be gathered and analysis will be performed, and the accountant will present a final report to the hiring entity.
Becoming a forensic accountant
If you’re good with numbers and want to put your skills to use, becoming a forensic accountant may be a great goal to pursue. Most forensic accountants majored in accounting in college and took additional courses to become an FCPA. Forensic certified public accountants have taken courses and seminars beyond their initial degree in order to earn the distinction.
Forensic accountants often work behind the scenes gathering evidence and helping put away criminals like Bernie Madoff. If you want the thought of someone stealing from the trusting public makes your blood boil, you love numbers and your calculator is never far away, a career as a forensic accountant can be a rewarding one.
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