Fraud Investigator: Career Guide
With the consistent growth of technology and communication, the possibilities for fraudulent activity conducted using electronic mediums has been on the increase. As a result, the need for experienced, educated fraud investigators has grown. Investigators may work for the federal government, police departments, insurance agencies, banks, and healthcare organizations. Some fraud examiners also go into private practice, building and working for their own client base.
Career Description, Duties, and Common Tasks
Fraud investigators perform a variety of tasks for civil and criminal investigations. They investigate cases of insurance and credit card fraud, including interviewing and working with postal officials when the offenses have occurred through the mail. Investigators interview individuals who are affected by fraudulent activity, including complainants, employers, and witnesses. They research records and transactions, particularly those that are electronic, serve and execute search warrants, and conduct surveillance to collect evidence of fraudulent activity. Finally, fraud investigators work with members of the criminal justice system such as prosecutors and attorney generals, present investigation results, and testify in court.
Steps for Becoming a Fraud Investigator
A minimum of a high school diploma or equivalent is generally needed to become a fraud investigator. Individuals who have earned a bachelor's degree in criminal justice, economic crime, fraud management, accounting, law, or business administration are typically the most sought-after and highly-qualified candidates. Some states require licensure of fraud examiners while continuing education is mandatory in other states. While the specifics of the hiring process will depend on the job, prospective fraud investigators can usually count on steps similar to the following:
- Attend a degree program and/or gain experience in a related field.*
- Apply for an open position as a fraud investigator.
- Attend an interview session.
- Successfully complete a physical examination, drug test, polygraph exam, and background investigation.
- Get hired as a fraud investigator.
- Get on-the-job training as a fraud investigator.
*A two- or four-year degree may not be a mandatory requirement, so check with each job posting before applying. Keep in mind, however, that the possession of a degree can often be counted in place of prior experience.
Fraud Investigator Job Training
Organizations generally require fraud examiners to have previous work experience in a related field or a degree in criminal justice or a related field. Individuals can become certified fraud examiners through the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) by successfully passing an online exam. On-the-job training is also common for fraud examiners.
Other Helpful Skills and Experience
Applicants who have experience with criminal investigations, background investigations, suspect business practices, or insurance casualty claims are most likely to be the first hired as a fraud investigator. Skills a potential fraud investigator must possess include the ability to conduct interviews, to take statements, to write reports, and to collect and to preserve evidence. In addition, fraud investigators must be ethical and excellent communicators. Prospective fraud examiners with former law enforcement experience may have an edge during the hiring process.
Examples of Possible Job Titles for this Career
- Fraud Analyst
- Fraud Examiner
- Fraud Investigation Officer
- Fraud Investigator
Fraud Investigator Salary and Job Outlook
According to O*NET OnLine, a service of the US Department of Labor, fraud examiners, investigators, and analysts earn an annual median wage of $69,520.1 Job growth for these professionals is expected to be between 10 and 14% through 2026.1 Those working in the insurance industry as claims examiners and investigators earn a median annual wage of $65,670, but job growth is projected to remain stagnant or slightly contract through 2026.2 Individual salaries can depend on factors like education, experience, geographic location, and industry (i.e. government, public, or private sector job).
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Frequently Asked Questions
Question: What is the difference between a fraud examiner and a forensic accountant?
Answer: A fraud examiner deals only with anti-fraud measures and cases of fraud. Both CPAs (Certified Public Accountants) and non-CPAs can work as fraud examiners. A forensic accountant, on the other hand, must typically be a CPA.
Question: What does the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners certification exam consist of?
Answer: The exam, which takes an estimated 10 hours, covers four major subject areas including investigation, financial transactions and fraud schemes, fraud prevention and deterrence, and the law.
Question: Is fraud investigation an entry level position?
Answer: No. Fraud examiners generally must have several years of work experience in a related field such as accounting or law enforcement and will need additional on-the-job training once securing a position in fraud investigation.
- Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE): “The World's Largest Anti-Fraud Organization” that provides training, certification, and continuing education opportunities for fraud examiners.
- Fraud Magazine Online: An ACFE publication offering news and information relevant to fraud-related issues.
- International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators: An international fraud resource that offers training and access to intelligence reports for members.
- National Association of Fraud Investigators: A resource for fraud investigators featuring a global member direcory of fraud investigators.
1. O*NET OnLine – Fraud Examiners, Investigators, and Analysts: https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/13-2099.04
2. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook – Claims Adjusters, Appraisers, Examiners, and Investigators: https://www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/claims-adjusters-appraisers-examiners-and-investigators.htm