Identity theft, Ponzi schemes, property flips, credit fraud and securities fraud -- financial fraud encompasses a wide range of criminal behavior with the sole purpose of stealing money from financial institutions. A financial or bank investigator seeks out and catches these criminals. Financial investigators are hired by credit card issuers, mortgage bankers, insurance companies and financial institutions. They work to detect and protect financial institutions from crooks.
Responsibilities and Duties
A financial or bank investigator analyzes financial statements, bank records, government databases and other sources to identify fraud or other instances of financial crime. He conducts a preliminary investigation to confirm a violation has occurred, then obtains relevant documents and testimony from involved parties. Financial investigators draft subpoenas, analyze complex financial and accounting records and conduct interviews with suspects. They file reports on their findings and support prosecutors by offering testimony during court proceedings.
Financial and bank investigators must understand complex accounting and financial spreadsheets to unearth discrepancies that hint at illegal activities. A bachelor's degree in finance or accounting can provide an investigator with the initial knowledge she needs. Courses typically include financial accounting, management accounting, corporate finance, business law, business ethics, auditing and financial analysis. Many programs also offer minors or concentrations in fraud investigation. Though rare, some universities offer bachelor’s degrees in fraud management or economic crime investigation. These programs establish a foundation in finance and accounting while offering courses in topics such as forensic accounting, fraud detection technologies, fraud detection techniques, fraud auditing and criminology.
Because they gather and analyze large amounts of data, financial investigators need to be adept at using and managing spreadsheets and other methods of gathering, sorting and analyzing data. Because they often present their findings to those who do not have advanced financial knowledge, financial investigators must be able to communicate well both verbally and via written reports. They must be clear in explaining complex financial matters and adept at communicating with a wide range of people, from federal and state prosecutors to suspects, witnesses and jurors with limited financial knowledge.
Salary and Career Outlook
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics includes financial investigators in its "Accountants and Auditors" job category. These professionals earned a median yearly income of $61,690 as of May 2010. The BLS states that employment in the field is expected to grow by 16 percent from 2010 to 2020, which is above the 14 percent projected growth rate for all jobs. Demand will be driven in part by stricter laws and regulations in the financial sector in response to corporate scandals and financial crises.
2016 Salary Information for Accountants and Auditors
Accountants and auditors earned a median annual salary of $68,150 in 2016, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the low end, accountants and auditors earned a 25th percentile salary of $53,240, meaning 75 percent earned more than this amount. The 75th percentile salary is $90,670, meaning 25 percent earn more. In 2016, 1,397,700 people were employed in the U.S. as accountants and auditors.