Investigating Financial Crimes

Financial crimes—also often referred to as white-collar crimes—are a prevalent and serious problem in the United States. The FBI and the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, through a 2010 national public survey, found that the cost of financial crimes in the U.S. now totals between $300 and $660 billion a year.

The FBI/Association of Certified Fraud Examiners survey also found that 24 percent of survey respondents indicated that they experienced at least some type of financial victimization within the past 12 months. As technology and the use of the Internet continue to expand, so do opportunities for financial crimes to take place.

The largest number of survey respondents (39.6 percent) reported that they were victims of credit card fraud. Other incidences of household victimization that were reported during the survey included:

  • Mortgage fraud: 4.3 percent
  • False stockbroker information: 7.6 percent
  • Fraudulent business venture: 9.7 percent
  • Identity theft: 12.2 percent
  • Monetary loss on the Internet: 15.8 percent
  • Unnecessary repairs: 22.3 percent
  • Price misrepresentation: 28.1 percent

The Role of Financial Crimes Investigation Units

Due to the unrelenting problem of financial crimes throughout the United States, most police departments and sheriff’s departments have organized efforts in place to combat financial crime and take down the individuals who target others for financial gain. It is also common for Divisions of State Police to organize financial crimes investigation units.

Police department financial crimes units/divisions are responsible for any felony fraud-related financial crimes, such as:

  • Forgeries
  • Check cases
  • Counterfeiting
  • Credit card offenses
  • Fraudulent credit applications
  • Computer crimes
  • Embezzlements
  • Elder fiduciary abuse cases

It is typical for financial crimes investigative units to employ experts in document examinations and handwriting comparisons, as well as a team of detectives who are called upon to prioritize hundreds—often thousands—of cases received each year, particularly among larger departments.

Detectives must review each case and determine if there is a viable suspect(s) or if it may be possible to identify a suspect. In other words, if there is information present (paper trail) that could lead to a suspect being identified, detectives of the financial crimes unit are likely to take the case.

Detectives for financial crimes investigative units also often work with the public, providing them with information and tactics for protecting themselves against financial fraud. They may conduct public seminars and programs, where they actively educate the public about the dangers of financial crimes, how to identify possible fraud situations, and how to avoid becoming a victim of financial fraud.

Forensic auditors (Certified Fraud Examiners) are also often important members of a police department’s financial crimes unit, as they are responsible for providing the financial analysis services used in criminal investigations. They may utilize their accounting, computer, auditing and investigative skills to examine financial evidence. Their extensive training and education allows them to handle complex financial investigations, which may include insurance fraud, embezzlement, and mortgage fraud, among others.

Training for Financial Crimes Investigators

Like other areas of criminal investigation, financial crimes investigators, as trained police officers, receive much of their training through on-the-job experiences. However, in the field of financial crimes, detectives must be constantly kept apprised of changing crime trends, swiftly changing technology, and new and changing laws.

Detectives must be able to adapt as to meet the most contemporary financial crime problems; therefore, formal training among financial crimes investigators is a typical and ongoing process.

Most training in financial crimes includes practical, exercise-driven training programs and seminars that involve the study of crimes and providing investigators with the foundational knowledge needed to conduct a thorough financial investigation within the parameters of the law.

Training in financial crimes is most often designed as to allow detectives to:

  • Identify common investigative techniques used to gather information in a financial investigation
  • Gather and analyze financial evidence related to the crime
  • Draw appropriate conclusions based upon the facts of the crime

Typical areas of study in financial crimes training program include:

  • Financial interviewing
  • Sources of information
  • Developing a financial profile
  • Analyzing law enforcement and public records
  • Income tax records
  • Investigative planning
  • Financial crimes statutes
  • Analyzing subpoenaed evidence
  • Financial search and seizure warrants
  • Prosecution recommendations
  • Writing financial search and seizure warrants
  • Prosecutorial recommendations

Salaries in this investigative specialty are often commensurate to the detective’s specialized knowledge or skills, as well as experience in the field of financial investigations.

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