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Difference Between Fraud Examiner & Forensic Accountant

May 30, 2020

Comparing Fraud Examiners to Forensic Accountants

Fraud examiners and forensic accountants are both in the business of inspecting and analyzing financial transactions. Each career requires a background in accounting, yet there are some key differences between the two that require unique skills and training. Read on for more information about these investigative careers.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary (2019)* Job Growth (2018-2028)*
Fraud Examiner Bachelor's Degree $81,590 (for all other financial specialists) 6% (for all other financial specialists)
Forensic Accountant Bachelor's Degree $68,531 (2020) 6% (for all accountants and auditors)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and Payscale.com

Responsibilities of Fraud Examiners vs Forensic Accountants

Both fraud examiners and forensic accountants work in highly specialized accounting fields requiring additional training and professional certifications. They are involved in investigating financial information in an effort to identify fraudulent activity, but each career has its own specific roles and responsibilities. Fraud examiners can work in any number of industries including government, banking, insurance or information technology. Forensic accountants conduct investigations to support pending or ongoing litigation and may often be called upon to act as expert witnesses in court cases.

Fraud Examiner

Fraud examiners are accountants who have earned a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) professional credential. In order to achieve this certification, fraud examiners must demonstrate expertise in the areas of fraud detection, prevention, and deterrence; they have been specially trained to spot suspicious financial activity that may indicate fraud or fraud risk. Fraud examiners must have extensive knowledge of accounting principles, financial markets, financial data analysis, and government regulations pertaining to their chosen industry. Obviously, those interested in becoming fraud examiners should have a strong background in mathematics and economics.

Job responsibilities of a fraud examiner include:

  • Examining financial data, transactions, records, statements, and other documents for signs of fraud
  • Interviewing witnesses and possible suspects in order to procure information
  • Conducting thorough investigations of suspicious activity or potential fraud
  • Coordinating with company executives and outside agents, including law enforcement personnel and attorneys
  • Maintaining up-to-date knowledge of tools and trends in both criminal activity and fraud prevention

Forensic Accountant

Forensic accountants must always be prepared to have their work hold up in a court of law. Because these accounting professionals most often work to support criminal cases, they are frequently required to coordinate with lawyers, law enforcement, and government agencies. Forensic accountants are charged with examining existing evidence to determine if and how fraudulent activity was committed, and are involved in a variety of criminal complaints such as identity theft, money laundering, falsification of financial records, embezzlement, and counterfeit insurance claims. Forensic accountants can choose between a specialty in litigation support, which entails presenting expert testimony and information that measures how much damage has been caused by a fraudulent act, or investigation which requires gathering proof that a fraudulent act has been committed.

Job responsibilities of a forensic accountant include:

  • Analyzing financial documents in order to calculate losses
  • Investigating allegations of financial fraud by conducting interviews, recording statements, and compiling evidence
  • Assisting law enforcement in the detection and confiscation of financial assets resulting from a criminal act such as hidden assets or tax fraud
  • Using knowledge of accounting principles and analysis to prepare for civil or criminal litigation

Related Careers

If you are interested in becoming a fraud examiner, you may also want to consider a career as a title examiner, which is an investigative professional who studies real estate documents and helps settle disputes over property ownership. If a career as a forensic accountant interests you, you may also want to consider becoming a loss prevention consultant, working with retail stores, government agencies, or insurance companies to detect and prevent fraud, loss, and theft.

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