Financial detectives are the new crime fighters in a world where they are looking for patterns and weaknesses in the financial spreadsheets.
Forensic accounting goes back to the days of Al Capone, a bootlegger and leader of many sorted illegal activities, brought down for tax evasion. Today, every forensic TV show has made their field, forensic accounting, more popular. But, so has the rise in business crime.
Forensic accountants are part investigator, well versed in state and federal law and the court system, and they know numbers, said Bob Johnson, Colorado Springs CPA who specializes in forensic accounting and fraud investigations.
“And, you have to be versed in taxes,” he said. “With every potential crime, there will be a tax issue.”
Forensic accountants go far beyond the debits and credits, Johnson said.
“That makes it more exciting,” he said.
White-collar crime is about five percent of all reported crime, but represents 95 percent of all financial losses. About 40 percent of the top 100 accounting firms in the United States now have a forensic accounting department, and the field is expected to be one of the top 20 job markets in the next few years, according to Accounting-Center.info.
The need for forensic accountants is growing, prompting some universities to create a forensic accounting degree. At the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, the School of Public Affairs is offering a weekend course over 10 Saturdays in forensic accounting and financial investigation beginning in February and Colorado Technical University offers a bachelor’s degree in financial forensics.
“It’s a hot topic right now,” said Johnson, who teaches forensic accounting at CTU. “It’s not just because of cases like Madoff. Transparency in the financial arena has become more important.”