Forensic accounting is an accounting career in which an individual analyzes an individual’s or an organization’s financial records to determine if the individual or organization has committed a wrongful act, or an act for which an individual or the members of an organization can be arrested, fined, and/or sued. Forensic accountants may specialize in a specific area of investigation such as antitrust law, divorce, bankruptcy, insurance, or terrorism. Forensic accountants analyze financial documents; conduct audits; examine ledgers, invoices, receipts, reports, and records to identify discrepancies and/or any other evidence that may indicate that a crime has been committed; examine ledgers, invoices, receipts, reports, and records to track a suspected criminal’s activities and, if possible, recover the financial resources that a criminal has taken.
Additionally, forensic accountants examine property to determine if an insurance claim was legitimate and/or to determine if the funds from a claim were used appropriately. They also speak to customers and suppliers to verify transactions; provide expert testimony in a criminal or civil court proceeding; speak to the employees of the organization to determine if the organization as a whole has taken part in fraudulent and/or questionable business activities in the past; and perform other similar tasks.
- Individuals in forensic accounting are typically known as forensic accountants or forensic consultants, but an individual in forensic accounting may also be known as an auditor, a divorce financial analyst, a financial examiner, a forensic financial analyst, a fraud auditor, an insurance inspector, or any of a number of other similar titles depending on the specific responsibilities of the position and the specific type of forensic accounting in which the individual works.
In most cases, an individual will be able to obtain a position in forensic accounting with a bachelor’s degree or a master’s degree in accounting from an accredited accounting school and no less than two years of experience in a related field (accounting, auditing, fraud examination, etc.). However, a Certified Forensic Accountant (Cr. FA) certificate, a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) certificate, or a Certified Public Accountant (CPA) license is often required (by employers or by law) in order to become a forensic accountant. Some employers may require an individual to obtain a Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF) certificate, a Certified Forensic Consultant (CFC) certificate, a Certified Forensic Financial Analyst (CFFA) certificate, or another similar certificate in order to be eligible for some positions.