Forensic investigation by the numbers - Metro US

Forensic investigation by the numbers

If you’re looking for excitement, become an accountant like David Malamed. The 37-year-old Torontonian is a forensic accountant: He follows the money to investigate financial crimes.

Malamed began his career with a business degree at York University and a stint as a business owner. Then he and his wife both went back to school to study accounting at Ryerson.

While there, he took a course in forensic accounting and loved it. “In terms of accounting, this is the most exciting thing I could do.”

The couple got jobs at the same large accounting firm and Malamed soon got transferred to the forensic unit. His boss spent a lot of time teaching him the unique craft. “Are you comfortable working outside the box?” he’d ask.

Malamed was, and kept upgrading his education so today he now has an investigative forensic accounting diploma, a certified fraud examiner’s course and certified fraud investigator’s course.

New investigations start with a call from a client — usually someone new, Malamed doesn’t get a lot of repeat customers — who’s just discovered something bad has happened. Usually they’ve been scammed or an employee has stolen money.

The person or representative from a business is often pretty upset and wants to know what happened, how it can be prevented again and, ideally, get the money back.

Malamed immediately starts asking questions. “We’ve got to work pretty fast. We’ve got to find out if it’s something live or old. And if it’s live, do we need to control it, shut things down?”

After shutting down bank accounts or the like to stop any more losses, Malamed comes up with a work plan on how to track down the missing money. He looks through documents, financial statements, bank accounts, emails, computers and cancelled cheques. He interviews the people involved — some of these people may eventually be charged with a crime — to find out if their stories match up with how funds moved around.

Often the police are involved. Malamed has even joined them in visiting a crime scene. They bang on the door, walk in with their guns. When it’s all clear, Malamed starts collecting files and computers.

And while he’s working for a client, his goal is to chase down the facts, not just take the client’s word for what happened. That’s because his investigations can end up as evidence at a trial or for an insurance settlement, so he cannot be biased.

Investigations can take a week or years. He sometimes works 40 hours a week, but if he’s in the middle of an intense investigation, his phone can ring day or night and he can suddenly be putting in 100 hours to get the job done.

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