Forensic Accounting and the Use of Technology

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Forensic Accounting and the use of technology:
The Toronto Sun

October 4, 2009 Sunday

Investigate the world of forensic accounting



LENGTH: 733 words
Lately, cooking the books seems to be a national pastime in some corners of North American corporate culture. Over the last several years, Canadians and Americans have witnessed a rash of accounting and financial fraud incidents, including the debacles at now-bankrupt WorldCom and Enron, the Martha Stewart stock scandal, and recently, the largest Ponzi scheme in history allegedly perpetrated by Bernard Madoff. One effect of the stronger public spotlight on this increasing -- or perhaps just increasingly detected and prosecuted -- white collar crime is greater demand for qualified forensic accountants, and consequently, an increase in both the number and popularity of programs or courses in this area. "There is an exponentially greater level of attention being paid to the world of fraud, and I think that's why our enrolment is up," says Cameron McCaw, instructor in the Fraud Investigation and Forensic Accounting program at Seneca College. Typically attracting about 15 to 18 students per intake, the two-semester graduate certificate program drew about 30 students this past fall. Introduced about six years ago and, according to McCaw, was the first of its kind in Ontario, the program provides students with in-depth training in uncovering fraud, financial disputes and other such irregularities in today's business world. Participants gain technical skills and practical knowledge in fraud investigation, law and ethics, and computer and systems technology. "We take high-profile cases of fraud and financial wrongdoing, such as Bernie Madoff, Conrad Black and Garth Drabinsky, and we ask: Why did it occur? Where did the system break down? What can we learn from it?" McCaw says. "Forensic accounting is about asking the right questions, applying the right level of cynicism or skepticism when you hear answers, and using intuition to drill down to find out what doesn't make sense, and to find the evidence to support it." Courses in the program include Computer Forensics and Data Mining, Financial Statement Fraud, Money Laundering and Asset Tracking, and Serving as an Expert Witness/Communication. Students gain first-hand insights on the field from guest speakers such as retired RCMP officers, police officers, lawyers, and IT professionals specializing in forensic accounting technology. To qualify to participate, individuals have to have completed a degree or three-year diploma in a related business area, or be a mature student with three years of documented work experience in a related field. Graduates are prepared to work as fraud examiners and forensic accounting investigators with public accounting firms; financial institutions such as banks, insurance firms and credit card companies; government agencies; financial regulators; the internal auditing departments of companies; or, in law enforcement. "This program is very responsive to this trend and to the marketplace, and it prepares students for a host of job opportunities," McCaw says. "Students come away with a strong foundation and employers find them to be very prepared and well trained." Brand new this fall at Humber College, meanwhile, is Forensic Accounting, an online course that covers various aspects of financial fraud, including fraud prevention, detection and investigation. Legal procedures related to fraud, statistical analysis for fraud detection and fraud investigation reporting are among the main subjects covered in the course. Teaching the course is a seasoned industry expert with 30 years of experience in computer auditing and information security in both the private and public sectors. "Taking this course makes a student more marketable as an accountant or auditor...
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