Bringing down one of the biggest mob bosses in history, or catching thieves clever enough to stealing millions of euros from companies. These tasks no longer require a security services and detectives using brute force, but instead can be completed by a mild-mannered accountant in the rapidly growing field of forensic accounting.
Forensic accounting is deemed to be one of the most exciting and rewarding career choices available in the field of accounting. Although most people may not know exactly what being a forensic accountant entails, just about everyone knows of some of the most famous forensic accountants; such as Sherlock Holmes (Crumbley). While he was a fictional character, Sherlock Holmes, mixed his financial skills with his ability to think and became one of the most famous detectives in history.
This mixture is what makes up what U.S. News and World Report called “one of the eight careers to count on”(Forensic Accounting Courses). Forensic accounting is the practice of utilizing accounting, auditing, and investigative skills to assist in legal matters (Forensic Accounting Information). In other words, it is an accountant that has the ability to use his or her mind to look at the financials of a situation and figure out enough details to put fraudsters away for a long time. Forensic accounting has been around for centuries, and in today’s world the demand for it is higher then ever, and is growing more each year as the fraud it aims to stop increases.
The reason forensic accountants are at such a high demand is because fraud is becoming an ever-increasing problem and is becoming easier and easier to commit. In today’s society, increased technology has given people the ability to commit fraud on a huge scale and get away with it fairly easily. According to a study by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), organizations lost an estimated $600 billion this year alone to fraud (Synovate, 7). Because of the internet, almost anyone’s personal information can be easily attainable, making identity theft one of the biggest problems today. ID theft in the United States in 2003 affected 9.91 million people who lost a total of $5 billion, and also businesses, which lost $47.6 billion (Synovate,7). The cost of fraud is at an all time high, and forensic accounting is one of the best ways to stop fraudsters in their tracks and recover all of that lost money.
Forensic accounting is a rapidly growing career path designed to combat the growing fraud. According to Accounting Today, nearly 40 percent of the top 100 accounting firms in the United States are now expanding their forensics-related services (Vogt). Forensic accountants are employed by everyone from divorcees to uncover hidden assets, to government agencies like the FBI, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco. Companies also often employ forensic accountants to track down interior frauds that normal auditors might not be able to find. For some companies, as Michael Kessler, president and CEO of Kessler International says, “fraud can sometimes be the difference between a company posting a profit or a loss,” (Vogt).
Forensic accounting centers around two main areas, litigation support and investigation. The litigation support part of a forensic accountant’s job involves figuring out the amount lost by parties in a legal dispute, and also can involve testifying as an expert witness in trials (Forensic Accounting Information). As an expert witness, he or she will use their extensive knowledge in the field of crime fighting and financial measures to do many things from settling disputes between divorcees to helping to convict criminals who have, through fraud, stolen assets from companies or other people.
The second main component of a forensic accountant is investigation. This area of the profession involves combining the abilities of both accountants and detectives (Forensic Accounting Information). In this, a thorough knowledge of financial measures is required, but perhaps the most important skill correlated with forensic accounting is the ability to think (Forensic Accounting Information). Thinking deductively helps people with accounting backgrounds take financial measures and find facts vital to catching criminals, becoming detective-like. Using these methods, forensic accountants will determine whether or not things like employee theft, securities fraud, identity theft, or insurance fraud have occurred (Forensic Accounting Information). Detecting these types of fraud is vital to attempting to get lost money or other assets back, and prosecuting those that have committed the criminal act of fraud.
Sometimes a forensic accountant is not only helpful, but necessary to putting a criminal behind bars. Such was the case with legendary mob boss, Al Capone. After years and years of staying on the streets because no crime could stick to him to get through trial, it was finally an accountant that caught him. The thing that finally put him behind bars was when the IRS charged him with tax evasion (Crumbley). Forensic accountants are becoming more and more necessary in our life to stop criminals, and will forever be in demand, as long as there are still people out there committing types of fraud.
With a daily life fit for a Hollywood movie, and an average salary with 6 figures, forensic accountants easily dispel the rumors of accounting being one of the more boring professions out there. With such an attractive career, accounting might even make it some kid’s, “when I grow up I want to be..” lists, right under a super-hero, of course.