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Hiring a Forensic Accountant
Originally posted by Jennifer Hohman, CPA
Not all forensic accountants are created equal.  Just as you would with any service provider, you must exercise due diligence when selecting a forensic professional, ensuring that you choose an individual with the right credentials for your case.  There are four key factors to consider: Certifications, Experience, Reputation and Capabilities.

Certifications

The most common certification associated with a forensic accountant is Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). To become a CFE, the individual must be a member of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners , complete an application with proof of education and professional recommendations, and pass an exam. The exam covers the following areas: Financial Transactions and Fraud Schemes, Fraud Prevention and Deterrence, Investigation and Law. 

Why is the CFE certification so helpful?  This program prepares an examiner to conduct a proper investigation and learn the different areas where fraud can occur.  A CFE must also gain knowledge of fraud prevention practices to help clients take a proactive approach and prevent future breaches.
In addition to CFE, a certification to look for is Certified Public Accountant (CPA).  A professional who is both a CPA and a CFE will have extensive knowledge of internal control structures and financial transactions.  This dual knowledge provides a broad view of how fraudulent activity occurs and can add insight into ways to prevent and detect fraud.

You may also want to consider hiring a forensic team that includes a Certified Computer Forensics Examiner  (CCFE) or an e-discovery specialist.  The benefits of this specialty are discussed below.

Experience

Another important consideration is the experience of the forensic accountant.  Inquire to see how long the accountant has been a CFE, or has been performing forensic audits and investigations, as well as the number of forensic projects that he/she has performed.   Also ask if the accountant has ever served as an expert witness.  Not every forensic accountant is qualified serve as an expert witness; the professional’s experience/expertise is reviewed by the court and if it is deemed inadequate then the accountant will not be accepted to testify.   Ensure that the forensic accountant you hire has the proper experience to fulfill this function, should your case go to court.

Reputation and Capabilities

Examine the reputation and capabilities of the accountant/firm you are considering to perform the forensic procedure and ask for references or examples of work they have performed.  You may also want to review any special skills or areas of expertise and consider whether e-discovery may be necessary when finding a professional for your case. A Certified Computer Forensic Examiner has the capability to image a suspect’s computer hard drive, potentially providing key evidence from hidden or previously deleted files.  

In summary, when looking for a forensic accountant, consider the professional’s certifications, experience, reputation and capabilities during your search.  Choosing an individual with in-depth experience and the appropriate specializations will increase the efficacy of your investigation and help provide the evidence you need in case of a trial.
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