90-Day CFE Exam Challenge Success Story: Amelia Tercero

90-Day CFE Exam Challenge Success Story: Amelia Tercero

Amelia Tercero has been one of the most active and engaged members of the ACFE Community. Since joining the ACFE in June 2018, she has posted more than 300 times. Tercero is always eager to share knowledge and experiences with fellow members to learn as much as possible about the anti-fraud profession. It was no surprise when she signed up for the 90-Day CFE Exam Challenge in October 2018, and she brought her lively personality to the challenge group.

Tercero has a background in financial services, mostly in banking, but no matter what her role was, she couldn't keep from identifying, deterring and preventing fraud. She knew that joining the 90-Day CFE Exam Challenge would put her on the fast track to pursuing her professional passion of fighting fraud.

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Integrity Fuels Fraud Fighter's Mission


Elenore Cox, CFE, CPA
Senior Manager-Fraud and Investigations
NBN Co Limited

Elenore Cox, CFE, CPA, has always been focused on doing what is right for society as a whole. After working on an emotional case involving retirees who fell victim to fraud, she found a home for that passion to do right by heading up fraud detection in Australia’s largest communications infrastructure project, the National Broadband Network (NBN). “I wanted to be able to work on such a large project which is extremely beneficial to Australians and future generations,” she said.

How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
I believe in integrity and doing the right thing all the time, even when no one is watching. I believe the people who make a conscious decision not to act with integrity and choose to commit fraud, or take part in corrupt activities when no one is watching, should be detected, investigated and (where proven and appropriate) prosecuted as a result. It is in the interests of individuals, organizations and the wider population. My passion stemmed from the underlying principle of doing the right thing, and I’m keen to ensure we prevent and minimize the risk of fraud and corruption.

What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on; one that made you feel especially proud?  
In a prior role, I worked on a case which was in the media that not only affected the client, but third parties to the organization — namely retirees. They had invested significant amounts of lifetime savings into investments, superannuation and insurance products/plans through a financial planner who was employed by a subsidiary of a large banking corporation.

The financial planner had more than 1,000 clients and defrauded approximately 60 percent, amounting to around $5.7 million over the course of 10 years.

While CFEs need to remain independent, calm and neutral, this case really pushed me to my limits as peoples’ livelihoods and their lifetime of hard work in savings was deceitfully taken from them with the promise of security, gains or, at a minimum, peace of mind (i.e. the insurance component). This was one of the cases that created the hashtag #trustisnotacontrol which I frequently quote.

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work? 
Some of my colleagues say that I am so passionate about my job that it’s also my hobby! I think that it’s a pretty good situation to be in; to be doing something I love day to day is priceless. They say, “If you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.”

In all seriousness, though, I love to travel and explore. I love spending time with my family and friends, am passionate about music, namely guitar and saxophone, and I like to play and watch sports and be out and about.

Read Elenore's full profile in the ACFE Career Center on ACFE.com.

Fraud Examiner: 'Interviewing is Not a Simple Yes or No Answer'


Kenneth Springer, CFE, Founder and President
Corporate Resolutions Inc. 

Author Kenneth Springer, CFE, is the founder and president of Corporate Resolutions Inc., a specialized firm that gathers intelligence and offers a variety of investigative services that helps its clients make informed business decisions. When conducting an investigation, “use your investigative skills to follow the evidence,” Springer said. “Interviewing is not a simple yes or no conversation; there are skills required to make sure the person feels comfortable in order to elicit the most honest and complete information.”

How did you become passionate about fighting fraud? 
While in college, I spoke with a family friend who was in the FBI. I became very interested and pursued it.

What steps led you from the FBI to starting your own company?
Although I enjoyed the FBI and the people I worked with, I had an opportunity to leave and get involved in managing a small investigations firm that conducted background checks and investigations for private firms. Four years later, I was running the company and decided I wanted to start my own business. I put together a business plan, got a Small Business Administration (SBA) loan and started Corporate Resolutions Inc. in August 1991.

What is one of the biggest lessons you have learned since becoming a CFE?
When investigating a fraud, you cannot necessarily rely on all of the facts as initially presented by the client since they may have their own agenda. You need to be open-minded and not have a preconceived notion as to how the fraud may have happened and by whom. Use your investigative skills to follow the evidence.

I know this because a long time ago a client led me to believe that a certain employee had committed the fraud we were investigating. It turned out that the client was actually responsible. The client was eventually arrested by the FBI.

What is a memorable case or project that you have worked on — one that made you feel especially proud?
In one instance, investors backed a company that sold hardware (desktops) and during a surprise audit, found $5 million dollars missing. After two months of having forensic accountants try to figure out the fraud, we were brought in to conduct interviews and gathering facts. We quickly learned that while the auditors were there, the CFO abruptly resigned and left town (in our business we call that a clue).

We immediately began fact gathering on the previous CFO and learned he had formed a similar-sounding entity within the company, yet the CEO was unaware of it or why it was formed. He also changed company procedure so that he was the one who opened all of the company mail.

To perpetrate his scheme, he would buy 100 computers, pay for them and then return 50. When the computer company sent a refund check, he was able to take the check and deposit it into the account he had fraudulently formed — which was located at the same branch where the company did their banking. Thus, it did not raise any red flags within the company. The FBI is still looking for him.

While putting together the fidelity bond claim for the insurance company, we did a background check on the previous CFO. He was not a CPA as he had claimed and the three references he provided did not check out.

What activities or hobbies do you like to do outside of work?
Spending time with family and golfing.

Read Kenneth's full member profile in the Career Center on ACFE.com.

What Does Success Mean to You? Female fraud fighters weigh in


Mandy Moody, CFE
ACFE Media Manager

This past Tuesday, March 8, the ACFE recognized our more than 28,000 female anti-fraud professionals in honor of International Women's Day. We created a page on our website to share articles, resources and profiles of the women dedicating their time to fighting fraud. This page will stay up year-round, and we look forward to adding more resources throughout the year. 

While preparing these materials, I thought it might be a good idea to ask some of the female leaders I have met over the years what their idea of success is and what it means to them to be truly successful. Here is what they told me:

"In my career as an investigative reporter, success was always a heady mixture of puzzle-solving satisfaction, truth-telling intensity and that incredible feeling of being stretched and enlarged by new knowledge and new skills. Success means living into the very best version of my professional self I can muster, using my resources to the max." - Diana B. Henriques, Author and Financial Writer
"For me, professional success is the convergence of four key factors: 1) using my strengths to add value to the organization; 2) continuing to learn, grow, and be challenged; 3) being part of a team that communicates and collaborates effectively; and 4) remaining true to myself and my ideals." - Andi McNeal, CFE, CPA, ACFE Director of Research
"For me, professional success is achieving your goals with excellence without compromising personal and professional values and ethics, while preserving relationships and the wellbeing of those around you. If you must rise to the top, it is through hard work, enriched knowledge and personal sacrifice; never by devaluing the work of your peers. Today is International Women’s Day; it makes me think back to when I first entered the world of anti-fraud; it was clearly male dominated. Fast forward 20 years and today this industry is more likely to hire based on skill and ability rather than gender, making it more balanced! This is progress we can celebrate, however we still have a lot of work ahead of us as there is still a marked inequality in pay; on a more global view, women represent 40 percent of the world’s labor force but hold just 1 percent of the world’s wealth (according to the World Bank).” - Carmen Wiechers, CFE, Regional Loss Prevention Manager-Western Canada, ValueVillage
"In my 25 years in the workplace, I have found that women tend to be risk averse.  Success has given me the freedom and confidence to pick my assignments as a journalist and, in 2011, decide to write a book, The Billionaire's Apprentice: The Rise of the Indian-American Elite and the Fall of the Galleon Hedge Fund. A decade earlier, I had been approached by a publisher to write a book while I was working at The Wall Street Journal. Then, in 2008, before I joined Forbes, I was given another opportunity to write a book. I turned that one down too. A junior colleague -- a man -- ended up writing the book which became a New York Times best-seller. For me, success was the key to giving me the courage to walk away from a 9 to 5 job and take up the challenge of writing a book on my own. It's been incredibly rewarding and it has opened up new horizons for me. Besides writing, I now give speeches. That's an opportunity I would have never had if I hadn't written the book.  - Anita Raghavan, investigative reporter and author
“Success for me is about having a real passion for my work because I am doing the things that I love and loving the things that I do. When I am continually learning, challenging people to think differently, inspiring others and driving impact through my work there is nothing more professionally satisfying.” - Bethmara Kessler, CFE, Chief Audit Executive, Campbell Soup
"Success is a balance of these factors: Happy and loving marriage + happy children + rewarding job that allows me to be creative + being active in society to make the world a better place. Success is giving 100 percent of yourself in all aspects of life (work, marriage, children), doing the right thing versus the easy thing, and enjoying and appreciating every step of the way." - Liseli Pennings, CFE, ACFE Deputy Training Director
“Understand that your definition of success does not have to match society’s. Success does not have to be about revenue growth, more money in the bank, etc. Success could be a new idea. Having lunch with your kid at school on a random Tuesday. Making new professional connections. Hiring your first employee. For me, I can certainly see the outward signs of success of my business – from starting a company in my home office to now having a nationally recognized firm to being on the ACFE Board of Regents. But, that’s not my focus. Just yesterday, I helped a board of directors for a small organization understand what happened, from the amount of loss, to the sequence of events that led to the loss. As difficult as it was to digest the information, you could see that the clarity we provided led to their ability to make informed decisions. That’s what I focus on. The success of each engagement, one at a time.” - Tiffany Couch, CFE, CPA, CFF, ACFE Regent, Principal of Acuity Forensics 

Job Hunting in 2016: It’s Complicated


Kathy Lavinder
Owner and Executive Director of Security & Investigative Placement Consultants

Job hunting used to be so simple. Put together a career history résumé, proof it for errors, fax or mail it out, go for an interview or two, and negotiate a salary and start date. That scenario is so last century! Any fraud fighter looking to make a job change these days had better prepare for a lengthy, and sometimes frustrating, process. 

The number of applicants for every position remains high but that’s just one of the challenges. Putting together a résumé that will get past the Applicant Tracking Systems most employers use is probably one of the biggest hurdles. Key word matches are paramount, along with a résumé that has been carefully tailored to the opportunity to reflect relevant experience. Producing a new version of the résumé for every opening is essential and can make the difference between getting traction and being ignored. 

Job seekers also have to continually update and refine their career messaging on LinkedIn and continue to expand their networks on the site, while checking specialized LinkedIn groups for job leads. If you want to be viewed by the fraud-fighting community as someone who is in touch with current issues you’ll also have to share articles on LinkedIn and start discussions about fraud-related topics.

The interview process always begins with an initial telephone screening, either with an external or in-house recruiter. Preparation is the key for clearing the phone screen. Smart job seekers distill their message, succinctly highlighting how their experience is a match for the role. Doing research on the employer, as well as seriously considering the specifics of the role, can lead to insightful questions that cast a job seeker in a good light.

At the in-person interview stage expect a very lengthy process that involves multiple meetings with one or two key decision makers. Finalists can also be asked back several times to meet with individuals across the organization. The jobs website Glassdoor reports that a few years ago it typically took companies 13 days to hire a new employee. It’s now up to 23 days, but even that is much quicker than what I have seen over the past year.

Companies also are more likely to require personality inventory testing to better understand how an applicant thinks and functions within a team. Fraud roles will often include a test that probes on integrity issues. Interviewees may be asked to make a presentation to a panel to demonstrate communication skills and subject matter knowledge. It’s not unusual for finalists to be expected to wait in the wings while an internal dialogue plays out in which one person is selected and a job offer finalized. You won’t know if you’re that person until the phone rings.

The process doesn’t end with an accepted job offer. Any offer is contingent on a successful background screening, and in some cases, a drug test. This process usually takes 10 days to two weeks. Patience, determination and perseverance are necessary to land that dream job.