Criminal financial investigators pore over public documents, complaints, and other data in an attempt to identify fraud and other financial crimes. They seek to protect consumers from scams like Ponzi schemes and other ethics or law violations. These investigators have backgrounds in numerous fields, such as accounting, auditing, regulatory compliance and criminal justice. If you want to become a criminal financial investigator, you must undergo significant training and sharpen your analytical skills.
Most financial crimes investigator positions require that you have at least a bachelor's degree. Some companies do not specify a required undergraduate major, but most prefer candidates who majored in business, accounting, finance, criminal justice or a closely related subject. Some employers allow you to substitute formal education for several years of experience in a financial crimes investigation position. You may also benefit from additional training after college through professional organizations. For example, the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators offers training seminars at its annual conference and regional training events.
The most important skill for prospective criminal financial investigators is the ability to analyze and interpret complex material. Financial crimes investigators must be able to understand the legalese of relevant acts and statutes and must be able to interpret complex, potentially doctored financial documents. Criminal financial investigators may also be called upon to testify in criminal and civil court cases, present findings to top executives, law enforcement, or regulators and maintain relationships with law enforcement agents and regulators. For these reasons, it is necessary that criminal financial investigators be able to communicate clearly, effectively and accurately.
A number of certifications are available to prospective criminal financial investigators. Among the most relevant is the Certified Financial Crimes Investigator designation offered by the International Association of Financial Crimes Investigators. To certify, you must complete a 100-question certification exam covering the skills and knowledge required of a competent financial crimes investigator. Another certification that may be helpful to financial crimes investigators is the widely respected Certified Fraud Examiner designation. To gain this certification, you must be an associate member of the Association for Certified Fraud Examiners, have at least 2 years of related experience, have a bachelor's degree, prove that you are of high moral character through references, agree to a code of ethics and pass an exam.
Criminal financial investigators are, for the most part, not entry-level employees and need to have some experience in related positions in the criminal justice or regulatory compliance fields, especially experience with the Bank Secrecy Act and anti-money laundering compliance. Most companies and organizations that hire criminal financial investigators require that you undergo a rigorous background check, which may include fingerprinting. For this reason, you should have a clean criminal history.