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Become a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE)

Distinguish yourself.

The Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE) credential is the premier certification for anti-fraud professionals around the world. The exam is offered only by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).

Upon passing this exam, you will earn the coveted title of Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). CFEs have a unique skill set that is not found in any other career field or discipline; they combine knowledge of complex financial transactions with an understanding of methods, law, and of how to resolve allegations of fraud. Fraud Examiners are trained to understand not only how fraud occurs, but also why.

Watch a short ACFE video about the Certified Fraud Examiner.

Video Highlights:

  • ::  The fall of companies like Enron, Tyco and Worldcom have magnified the role of the Certified Fraud Examiner
  • ::  CFEs have investigated more than 2 million cases of criminal and civil fraud
  • ::  The typical US business loses over five percent of its gross revenues each year to fraud and abuse, including embezzlement, payroll fraud, expense report fraud and skimming
  • ::  Fraud is defined as the use of deception in order to obtain money or property to which you're not entitled
  • ::  CFEs play three important roles: Finding red flags and evidence of fraud; conducting interviews, collecting evidence and writing reports; proactively assessing a company's fraud risk
  • ::  The threat of fraud is enormous. The ACFE estimates the cost of fraud is $600 billion annually in the United States alone, and in the trillions of dollars globally.
  • ::  CFEs must have 2 years of related experience; they must pass the rigorous CFE exam; and they must complete 20 hours of continuing professional education (CPE) every year to maintain certification and stay on top of the dynamic, ever-changing nature of fraud.

Read the transcript:

Lou Gossett, Jr. - Host: Whether you're conducting personal business or running a multimillion-dollar corporation one sector remains constant: Change. Often science or technology inspire the change to dictate the direction we take. Advances can also come from new ideas on management or networking. However change happens, keeping up with it is crucial in today's business world.

Narrator: The fall of companies like Enron, Tyco and Worldcom has brought the issue of corporate fraud to the forefront, but it has also magnified the role of one special white collar crime fighter - the Certified Fraud Examiner.

Joseph T. Wells: "The Worldcom fraud, for example, was uncovered by a Certified Fraud Examiner. CFEs have investigated collectively more than two million cases of criminal and civil fraud."

Narrator: As the world's largest anti-fraud organization, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners has nearly 40,000 members in over 125 countries. Dedicated to reducing the incidents of fraud and white collar crime, the ACFE trains anti-fraud professionals how to detect and prevent fraud at every level within a company.

Wells: "There have always been fraud investigators and there's always been accountants, but again what we've done is we have melded these together into a cohesive unit."

What is the cost of fraud to a company?

Narrator: The ACFE wants to prove that crime does not pay especially within your own company. No matter how successful your business, the biggest problem often comes from within. The cost of fraud can be disastrous to accompany especially when you consider the typical US business loses over five percent of its gross revenues each year to fraud and abuse. Corey Bloom is the Chairman of the Board of Regents for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners and a fraud examiner for the firm of RSM Richter in Montreal.

What is the definition of fraud?

Corey Bloom: "Fraud is the use of deception in order to obtain money or property to which you're not entitled. It comes in all forms: there's embezzlement, skimming, payroll frauds, expense report frauds and it's a huge problem and it's growing and the main reason is that most companies are very reactive. They're not very proactive, and what that means is that they're not doing enough or spending enough in order to ensure that they're not victimized by their own employees."

Narrator: Employees like Walt Pavlo who was convicted in the largest fraud in American history, MCI Worldcom. While top corporate executives were cooking the company's books, they didn't know Pavlo had a scheme of his own to defraud the company of millions of dollars.

Walt Pavlo: "…And I would go into the MCI's books, I would eliminate the two million dollars that was owed by that customer. The customer will execute a promissory note with my partner on the outside to give the perception that he made this payment to MCI, that he now owed it to him. All the money was transferred and made payable to companies in the Cayman Islands which seemed legitimate because the investors were all European and immediately money started to flow."

What does a Certified Fraud Examiner do?

Narrator: The Worldcom fraud and millions of others were discovered and investigated by Certified Fraud Examiners. This special breed of anti-fraud professional is specially trained to resolve fraud allegations from inception to disposition, to gather evidence, take statements, write reports, testify to findings and assist in the detection and deterrence of fraud. James D. Ratley is President of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

James D. Ratley: "Certified Fraud Examiners have got to have communication skills that will allow them to communicate with someone and not only listen to what they say but also to determine if they're being truthful or evasive in their answers. They've also got to have the financial skills to be able to look at financial information and ferret out the red flags or the facts that indicate there's a problem. They've got to be the 'accountant cop.'"

How do you become a Certified Fraud Examiner?

Narrator: Certified Fraud Examiners must be of high moral character, have at least 2 years experience in a fraud related field and pass the rigorous uniform CFE examination. They must also constantly undergo training to keep them abreast of the fast-changing world of fraud.

Bloom: "It's very important for CFEs to continuing professional education because scams are always changing. The fraud field is very dynamic. CFEs have got to be able to identify the issues and address them appropriately. Now, CFEs are required to maintain a minimum of twenty hours of professional education per year, and those can be in a variety of ways. For example, seminars at conferences, webinars or even self-study courses."

Narrator: All CFEs are members of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the world's largest anti-fraud Association with over 40,000 members in 125 countries. Joseph T. Wells, a former FBI agent, is Founder and Chairman at the ACFE.

Why are Certified Fraud Examiners important?

Wells: "Well, oftentimes when a company or organization has a problem with fraud, the Certified Fraud Examiner is the solution. The designation represents a level expertise in the field of fraud prevention as well as fraud examination, fraud detection. You can count on having a professional when you have someone that has a Certified Examiner designation.

We have a dedicated staff. We have a Board of Regents. We have a hundred and five chapters, and so it's been a lot of work by a lot of people to bring it to where it is today."

Narrator: Government agencies such as the FBI, the Government Accountability Office, the Department of Defense, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and many others actively recruit CFEs. So do major corporations, top accounting firms, financial institutions and insurance companies. Certified Fraud Examiners play a major role in helping to protect our global economy and ensure integrity in the marketplace.

What is the cost of fraud in the US and globally?

Bloom: "The threat of fraud is enormous. The ACFE estimates that in the US alone, it cost economy over $600 billion dollars a year. Worldwide, including money laundering and the underground economy, we're talking about trillions of dollars. That's more than all the robberies and thefts that you find every year and that doesn't take into account the physical toll on the victims. What we're seeing these days is a lot of transnational types of scams, which means that they're occurring in many countries at the same time. What you really need is a truly global organization like the ACFE to be able to fight against these types of frauds and I'm very proud to be part of it."

Narrator: All organizations regardless of size face a growing threat of fraud. But companies don't have to wait until a disaster happens before doing something about it. CFEs are not only trained to investigate fraud, they also know how to assess a company's risk to help reduce the problem.

Palvo: "There is no amount of money that I would have been obtained that would be worth when I've gone through. None. And, you know, eight hundred thousand dollars and the lifestyle changes and some of these things were so short-lived and threw away so much of what I'd accomplished."

Wells: "Just the fact that you have Certified Fraud Examiners within an organization has a measurable impact because people know that someone in the organization is actively seeking out fraud and that helps reduce fraud. And although our CFEs investigate a lot of fraud, what we really want to do was prevent it from occurring in the first place.

Host: We hope this program has been an inspiration to you and all you hope to achieve. Be sure to join us next time as we continue to press on the people and ideas changing the way we live. I'm Lou Gossett, Jr.

Narrator: To locate a Certified Fraud Examiner, simply log on to

Why Become a CFE?

The ACFE's 2013/2014 Compensation Guide for Anti-Fraud Professionals shows that CFEs earn 25% more than non-CFEs in similar positions.

The 2015 Salary Guide from Robert Half International reports the Fraud Investigator's average annual salary has increased 3.6% over 2014, ranging from $68,000 to $91,750. The human resource consulting firm also called the CFE "certified gold" in its round-up of In-Demand U.S. Accounting Certifications1.

The demand for CFEs is evident. In fact, the FBI, U.S. Department of Defense, U.S. Government Accountability Office, the Postal Inspection Service, and the Integrated Market Enforcement Team (IMET) branch of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police officially recognize the CFE designation for their fraud investigators.

What do CFEs do?

In the wake of far-reaching corporate scandals, and sweeping legislation like the Sarbanes-Oxley act, there is a growing demand for individuals with fraud examination skills who can help organizations in fraud detection and deterrence. Certified Fraud Examiners perform a variety of services in many different industries throughout all sectors of an organization. They are part accountant, part investigator, part attorney, and part criminologist.

Sample CFE Job Titles:

  • :: External Auditor
  • :: Internal Auditor
  • :: Forensic Accountant
  • :: Audit Specialist
  • :: Information Systems Auditor
  • :: Audit Consultant
  • :: Management Consultant
  • :: Technical Specialist
  • :: Financial Analyst
  • :: Financial Specialist
  • :: Special Agent
  • :: Security Consultant
  • :: Director of Loss Prevention
  • :: Fraud Analyst
  • :: Fraud Investigator
  • :: Risk Manager
  • :: Tax Manager
  • :: Bankruptcy Analyst
  • :: Compliance Officer
  • :: Legal Investigator
  • :: Private Investigator

The CFE Exam - What to Expect

To become a CFE, you must pass a rigorous examination administered by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), meet specific education and professional requirements, exemplify the highest moral and ethical standards, and agree to abide by the CFE Code of Professional Ethics. The CFE Exam is a Windows-based application in CD-ROM format. The exam has a number of sophisticated controls to ensure integrity and each exam is generated from a master database. No two tests are alike. It will take approximately 10 hours to complete the CFE Exam. The examination consists of 500 questions divided into four sections:

  • ::  Fraud Examination and Investigation
  • ::  Criminology and Ethics
  • ::  Financial Transactions
  • ::  Legal Elements of Fraud

Each section is allocated a maximum of 2.6 hours to complete. Each question has a time limit of 75 seconds, and each section contains 125 questions.

For more information about becoming a CFE or the required exam, please visit the ACFE website.

Our curriculum supports your preparation for the CFE exam

The Utica College online Master's in Financial Crime & Compliance Management, online Bachelors in Fraud and Financial Crime Investigation, online Economic Crime and Fraud Management MBA and online Financial Crime Investigation Certificate programs support your preparation for the CFE exam. For more information, please call toll-free (866) 295-3106 to speak with a Program Manager.

1 "Certified Gold: In-Demand U.S. Accounting Certifications" - Accountemps, a Robert Half Company -