Frank Abagnale Jr of Catch Me If You Can fame recently spoke about the complexity of his cheque forging process, saying: “[The printing press] was 90 feet long and 18 feet high and required three print operators to operate it. So I built scaffolding on the side of the press and I eliminated those other two positions. I had to run the length of the press to operate it.”

According to Toby Bishop, President of the Toronto Chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, what Frank Abagnale was able to achieve in the 1960s can be done today by “a 6-year-old with a home computer, scanner and color printer.”

“And occasionally it is,” he light-heartedly adds.

The sophistication and proliferation of fraud have transformed it into one of the most common crimes in North America. While 20 years ago organizations were generally hesitant to recognize it as a serious issue, today, the field of fraud examination is growing at unprecedented levels. 

“The growing need of businesses for a large number of anti-fraud professionals has created opportunities for both direct entry and experienced entry into the profession.”

Professional profile

Roland MacDonald, an Instructor of the Financial Crime Analysis Program at Seneca College, can testify to this. He found his start in the field of fraud examination with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, conducting criminal investigations related to crimes such as bankruptcy fraud, theft fraud, impersonation, perjury, and more.

After 25 years, MacDonald made the transition to the private sector where he worked as the vice-president of security and risk management at MasterCard International. There he specialized in security and risk management, developing prevention programs for national credit card merchants and establishing national network systems in credit card institutions and law enforcement agencies.

“It involved developing programs that educate the public about what fraud is, the types of fraud that can affect businesses and consumers, and the types of fraud that attack financial institutions,” says MacDonald. “We developed what the steps were that people could take to protect themselves from fraud, and what people should be looking for in their systems in order to identify fraud.”

Technology’s impact

Over the course of his career, MacDonald has witnessed tremendous growth in the area of fraud examination. And while he says that the essential notion of fraud hasn’t changed greatly, advances in technology have had a significant effect in facilitating its growth into new areas of life.

“What’s really changed in the world are social communications — the internet has made changes in the way people interact with each other socially and otherwise. It’s made fraud an international type of crime, increasing its exposures and effects,” says MacDonald.

Education

While simple frauds still exist, the proliferation of more complex fraud schemes have resulted in many  companies and organizations taking greater precautions to protect themselves. On the ground level, this has meant hiring more personnel with fraud examiner experience.

So how can one break into the exciting world of fraud examination?

According to Bishop, education is a great step in the right direction.

“As more universities establish classes and certificate programs and even specialist degrees for forensic accounting, fraud examination and related fields, the growing need of businesses for a larger number of anti-fraud professionals has created opportunities for both direct entry and experienced entry into the profession.”

One of the major benefits of enrolling in a fraud examination program is the multidisciplinary skill set you develop—you’re exposed to everything from counter intelligence and private investigation to risk analysis and data collection. Whether you’re interested in law enforcement, government or a financial institution, academic programs in fraud prevention, fraud examination, forensic accounting and compliance serve as a solid training ground.