Q & A with Tobin Craig, CFE

Tobin Craig of Maryland recently became a CFE after attending a CFE Exam Review Course. When Tobin is not working, he enjoys drumming, making wine
and, constructing model aircraft. However, this past fall, he put some time aside to focus on accomplishing his goal of obtaining the CFE credential. Tobin believes his new CFE credential will present interesting challenges for him in both his current position and the future.

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential?
Craig: 
I was notified on April 11, 2018, that I had successfully completed the certification process. 

Coach: You attended the CFE Exam Review Course in Washington, D.C., and following the course you sat for the CFE Exam on-site. Please describe your experience of participating in the four-day course and then sitting for the exam immediately after.
Craig:
There is a lot to ingest over the four days! I learned early on that my best option for success was to make my learning environment as flexible as possible. For me, this meant abandoning the rows of tables; instead, I chose to camp out at the back wall at a standing table with a chair beside it. This gave me the option to stand, sit, or pace without being distracting to the class or claustrophobic. I found that definitely taking each set of exams at the end of the day to be preferential. There's a lot to absorb, so being able to focus on each topic and then test on it was really helpful. 

Coach: What did you like most about the CFE Exam Review Course?
Craig:
The things I liked the most were the fast pace of the material, the speakers being relevant and engaging, and the fact that they did a great job of corralling a really large group of people! I also enjoyed meeting new people over lunch. I took the class by myself, so I had two options: take lunch alone or meet new people. I'm glad I chose the latter; I had some great discussions with a number of people from all walks of life.

Coach:  In what ways do you feel that your new CFE credential will be beneficial to you in your current profession?
Craig:
My background is in forensic science; I began as a chemist, then became a document examiner and, more recently, moved to computer forensics. I was initially skeptical of how this would augment my career path of more than 20 years, but I've recently transitioned into a field that is more aligned with investigations involving big data. In looking through Fraud Magazine recently, I was really surprised to learn just how far fraud investigation extends, and now I'm excited that the lessons I'm learning in my new position, coupled with my experience in computer investigations, will present interesting new challenges for me, both now and in the future.

Coach: How did you prepare yourself to sit for the exam on-site? Did you spend any additional time studying after class each day?
Craig:
I found that my professional experience helped me tremendously during the exams. Sure, there are some things that you simply have to learn, like the names of specific laws and such, but I also found that much of my experience (especially with prior courtroom testimony) helped me navigate much of the exam process. You can never fully prepare for exams like these, so I chose instead to absorb as much as I could during the review course to augment my experiences. 

Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?
Craig:
I definitely would! It’s a great challenge.

Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
Craig:
I've been involved in the fight against crime in a number of formas for more than 20 years. Fraud can be considered less exciting than other forms of criminal investigation, but when you look at it in terms of fraud’s negative impact on people’s lives, then it lights a fire. 

Coach: Now that we know what you do professionally, what do you like to do for fun and what do you find enjoyable about it?
Craig:
When I'm not working on a keyboard, I enjoy drumming, making wine, and WW2 model aircraft construction. It sounds strange, but there's something almost Zen-like about knowing the only thing I have to take care of some nights is painting a scale model spitfire or something . . . it takes my mind off computers! I'm also finishing a Master's program in Forensic Computing and Cybercrime Investigation in Dublin, Ireland. When that's done, I'm going to embark on learning some new programming skills. I'm a big fan of open source tools, and I like seeing how much I can accomplish just from a Linux command line.

Coach: Do you have any study tips or suggestions for aspiring CFEs?
Craig:
The only thing I can suggest is to jump in and do it! Don't panic that you don't know everything; no one does. Do the best you can–you might be pleasantly surprised. I know I was!
 

Q & A with Lyena Chong, CFE

Lyena Chong of Singapore recently became a CFE after studying with the CFE Exam Prep Course. When Lyena is not working, she enjoys reading and listening to classical music. This past April, Lyena put some time aside to pursue the CFE credential. Lyena says having the CFE credential helps her understand how a fraudster thinks and will better equip her to handle different types of fraud cases that come her way.

 

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential?
Chong: I sat for the exam in March 2018 and received my CFE credential in April 2018.

Coach: Please describe your experience using the Prep Course?
Chong:
I liked the user-friendly interface of the Prep Course. From the Pre-assessment to the Practice Exams, it built up my knowledge step by step in the content areas I lacked the most. 

Coach:  What did you like most about the Prep Course?
Chong:
I loved the challenge of going through each timed Practice Exam and recognizing the same mistakes I have made numerous times. This helped me realize where my weaknesses were and what specific areas needed to be built up. At the same time, I built up my knowledge and skills in a well-rounded way.

Coach: How long did it take you to complete the Prep Course and how often did you study?
Chong:
I started to get serious in my preparation for the CFE Exam when I signed up for the CFE Exam 90-Day Challenge from October to December 2017. I received encouragement from the participants, who also shared their experiences. I applied others’ experiences to my personal scenario to see what worked the best for me. I was motivated every single day.

Coach: In what ways do you feel that your new CFE credential will be beneficial to you in your current profession?
Chong:
I feel that the CFE credential has equipped me with the professional skills to handle any fraud cases that might arise in the course of my employment. It helps me think more like a fraudster and recognize how people might commit fraudulent acts.

Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?
Chong:
Yes, I have already recommended it to my friend and ex-colleague and convinced her to purchase the Prep Course.

Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
Chong:
I love to investigate, and I see challenges as fun, especially when you get to resolve them.

Coach: Now that we know what you do professionally, what do you like to do for fun and what do you find enjoyable about it?
Chong
: I love to read self-improvement books and enjoy listening to classical music.
I recommend that people study constantly and on a daily basis. Do not lose your hope. The CFE Exam can be easier when you know the topics well. 

Q & A with Mindy Mayfield, CFE

Mindy Mayfield of West Virginia recently became a CFE after attending the CFE Exam Review Course in Austin, TX. Mindy usually enjoys spending her free time traveling, but she recently devoted her time to accomplishing her goal of obtaining the CFE credential. Mindy feels her new credential will be beneficial as she plans and executes internal audits and investigations within her organization. She believes that having her CFE makes gaining individuals’ trust easier and building relationships quicker.

 

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential?

Mayfield: I received my CFE credential on November 28, 2017.

Coach: You attended the CFE Exam Review Course in Austin and following the course you sat for the CFE Exam on-site. Please describe your experience of participating in the four-day course and then sitting for the exam immediately after.

Mayfield: For me, the CFE Exam Review Course felt like a mixture of being in the trenches preparing for a battle with my comrades and being on a slip-and-slide that is fast and fun. Sitting in one place for a long period of time was the hardest part, but in the end, it was incredibly worth it. I was confident going into the exams each day, made some awesome new friends, and ate some of the BEST lunches and snacks at any conference I have ever attended. And the best part—there was an unlimited supply of coffee!!!

Coach: What did you like most about the CFE Exam Review Course?

Mayfield: Hands down, my favorite part of the review course was the ACFE faculty and staff. The instructors moved through the material quickly (and there is a lot of it) so that most of the information presented on the exam was covered, all the while providing real-life examples to aid in our understanding. The instructors were funny, engaging, and showed genuine interest in our successful completion of the exam. On the flipside, the staff were patient, kind, and helpful during the registration and grading process each day. When you are a long way from home and stressed over a four-day exam, it is comforting to be pointed in the right direction and to be offered reassurance along the way. 

Coach: In what ways do you feel that your new CFE credential will be beneficial to you in your current profession?

Mayfield: The CFE credential indicates to those I encounter both inside and outside my organization that I possess high moral character, that I will act with professionalism and integrity, and that I have been trained to prevent, detect, and deter fraud. This in itself is beneficial as I plan and execute internal audits and investigations within my organization because gaining individuals’ trust is easier and building relationships is quicker. However, it is not just what the credential represents that is valuable, but the knowledge I gained while studying for the CFE Exam that has allowed me to develop a skill set that is very much needed within my organization and my profession as a whole.

Coach: How did you prepare yourself to sit for the exam on-site? Did you spend any additional time studying after class each day?

Mayfield: To prepare for the on-site CFE Exam, I purchased the online CFE Exam Prep Course and followed the 90-day study plan outlined on the ACFE’s website. I spent about an hour after work studying each day, and I NEVER studied on the weekends. As I moved through the Prep Course, I took notes on the questions I answered incorrectly. This made it easy for me to quickly and easily review those items before each study session. I also made a reference list for acronyms and Latin terms used in the Law section for easy reference. The Prep Course made studying a breeze. I did not need to spend any extra time studying after class while at the review course.    

Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?

Mayfield: Yes! Of course! The review course is so much more than just a refresher before taking the exam and a chance to earn CPE credit. The review course fosters a sense of community and provides the opportunity to expand your network, both personally and professionally. Because I attended a review course, I was able to meet members of the ACFE faculty and staff. Being able to put faces with names at the ACFE is priceless and allows me to feel personally connected to the ACFE. And then, there were my classmates. What an exceptional group of people! Because of the diverse industries, experience levels, and geographical locations of the participants, the lunch conversations were never dull and friendships were formed. I am already looking at the ACFE calendar to determine which event to attend next and would most certainly encourage others to do so as well!

Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?

Mayfield: I like treasure hunts and puzzles, especially when they are challenging. At my previous employer, I participated in an engagement involving a small financial institution that allegedly assisted a client with a workers’ compensation fraud scheme and violated the Bank Secrecy Act. I found gathering the financial information, interviewing some of the individuals involved, and pulling the pieces together both interesting and satisfying. I have been hooked ever since!

Coach: Now that we know what you do professionally, what do you like to do for fun and what do you find enjoyable about it?

Mayfield: Travel. Travel. Travel. There is something truly exhilarating about submersing myself in a culture I have never experienced and trying all the new experiences my destination has to offer. The sights, sounds, smells, and flavors . . . ahhh . . . I’m ready! Let’s go!

Coach: Do you have any study tips or suggestions for aspiring CFEs?

Mayfield: Apply yourself!

 

Q & A with Nichole Rodriguez, CFE

Nichole Rodriguez of Colorado recently became a CFE after preparing with the CFE Exam Prep Course. When Nichole is not working, she enjoys camping, dining out, and going to the dog park with her dog. But this past fall, she put some time aside to focus on accomplishing her goal of obtaining the CFE credential.  Nichole says her new CFE credential has enabled her to better serve her clients. She has been able to implement new internal controls that have helped save her clients’ time and money by reducing their fraud risk.

Coach: What did you like most about the Prep Course?

Rodriguez: There are a lot of items I liked about the CFE Exam Prep Course.

a)    The ability to take and retake practice exams and knowing how I did at the end of each exam
b)    The ability to select questions missed via the practice exams to review later
c)    The checklist, which kept me on the right track and ensured I submitted everything prior to taking the exam
d)    The practice exams, which allowed me to narrow down areas I needed to study
e)    The calendar of achievements and deadlines, which allowed me to set dates of completion for myself

Coach:  How long did it take you to complete the Prep Course and how often did you study?

Rodriguez: To complete the Prep Course in its entirety, it took me roughly two months. I studied every night, while at work, early in the morning, and every weekend for three or more hours. My husband would quiz me on the material daily.

Coach: In what ways do you feel that your new CFE credential will be beneficial to you in your current profession?

Rodriguez: CFE credential has helped me help my clients better than ever before. It has opened my eyes to a whole new way of thinking, as well as new ways fraudsters think. In addition to the ACFE community, I have a wonderful mentor who has helped guide me through my CFE journey.

I’ve been able to implement new internal controls learned through my CFE studies and my mentor. This has helped save my clients time and money by reducing their fraud risk. I look forward to additional doors my CFE credential will open in my career.

Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?

Rodriguez: Absolutely. I will recommend the Prep Course.

Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?

Rodriguez: There are many reasons I became passionate about fighting fraud, but I’ll provide two.

First, my husband’s identity was stolen three times. In order to protect ourselves, we had to think like a fraudster to help combat the many avenues that could be used to ruin my husband’s life. The research, fact finding, and thrill of catching these people made my heart race with excitement. I loved reading the case files and knowing I prepared a lot of the work that would one day bring these fraudsters to justice.

The second reason is my mentor. I was privileged to assist this individual in a small aspect of a fraud case. The excitement of organizing files, researching information, data entry, and analyzing data was intriguing. My mentor opened my eyes to a whole new world and introduced me to the ACFE. I joined the ACFE shortly after our discussion and decided to pursue my CFE credential. Not once have I regretted my decision to become a CFE and am truly blessed my mentor introduced me to this new world.

Coach:  Now that we know what you do professionally, what do you like to do for fun and what do you find enjoyable about it?

Rodriguez: For fun, my husband and I spend time camping, dinning out, and going to the dog park with our dog, Whisper. My husband and I have been together for twenty-three years (high school sweethearts). He is my rock and my biggest supporter. The time we spend together is relaxing and fun.

Our dog keeps us on our toes, for she is a black Weimaraner and needs a lot of attention and love. While camping, we love to gaze up at the stars, looking for falling stars, the Big Dipper, and constellations.

Coach: Do you have any study tips or suggestions for aspiring CFEs?

Rodriguez:

o    It is OK to fail. We are all human, and life happens. Just get back up, and try again.
o    Budget time to study, and make an outline of what you’d like to study.
o    Take and retake the practice exams until you get a 95% each time.
o    Know the material. I can’t stress this enough.
o    Set deadlines of completion.
o    Ask someone to quiz you on the material studied.
o    Keep telling yourself, “I can do this,” and you will.

Finally, congratulations on your journey to becoming a Certified Fraud Examiner. I wish you well on your future endeavors.

Q & A with Stephanie Daniel

Stephanie Daniel of Arizona recently became a CFE after attending the CFE Exam Review Course in Austin, TX. When Stephanie is not working, she enjoys capturing interesting pictures and cycling. This past November, Stephanie put some time aside to pursue the CFE credential. Stephanie says having the CFE credential confirms her commitment to being the best she can be in her field as a financial crime investigation.

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential?

Daniel: I received my credential in December 2017.

Coach: You attended the CFE Exam Review Course in Austin and following the course, you sat for the CFE Exam on-site. Please describe your experience of participating in the four-day course and then sitting for the exam immediately after.

Daniel: I had previously attempted to take the exam via the self-directed prep course, but I was finding it difficult to truly dedicate the time to sit down and effectively walk through the material without getting distracted by life. The review course was a great way for me to be able to review the information in a setting where the instructors provided context and were able to answer clarifying questions. I could then take the section of the exam covered in the day’s lecture while it was still fresh in my mind. 

Coach: What did you like most about the CFE Exam Review Course?

Daniel: The instructors! The materials they prepared and the flow of the lectures literally brought the exam to life. For someone like myself who does not have a CPA, their ability to break down the basic accounting concepts into other relatable examples made a huge difference for me.

Coach: In what ways do you feel that your new CFE credential will be beneficial to you in your current profession?

Daniel:  While I have been in the financial crime investigation field for over 20 years, having the CFE credential reflects my commitment to being the best I can be in my field. Once I was able to update my LinkedIn profile with my credential, I actually received a number of communications from recruiters who had roles to fill that required a CFE.

Coach: How did you prepare yourself to sit for the exam on-site? Did you spend any additional time studying after class each day?

Daniel: I did spend time at the conclusion of each day’s lecture (about an hour) going back through my notes and sections of the course handouts to shore up any areas where I felt a little shaky.

Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?

Daniel: I am a visual learner who can be easily distracted, so having dedicated time away from interruptions and work where instructors bring concepts to life was, quite frankly, the best option for me. I would absolutely recommend the course to colleagues! 

Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?

Daniel: Funny story – I never envisioned myself as a fraud fighter when I was in high school – I was more interested in something having to do with music or art. By chance, I got a job with American Express handling fraud authorization calls in my early 20s, and I was immediately smitten with the idea of outsmarting and catching the bad guys. I’ve been in the financial crime compliance field ever since.

Coach: Now that we know what you do professionally, what do you like to do for fun and what do you find enjoyable about it?

Daniel: I like to spend downtime with my camera capturing things that I find interesting, and I also spend a lot of time cycling. Both activities feed my soul and allow me to be my naturally introverted self.  

Coach: Do you have any study tips or suggestions for aspiring CFEs?

Daniel: Once you decided to pursue the certification, make the commitment and hold yourself accountable to the timeline you set for yourself. It is so easy to keep putting it off for another day, and that day turns into two, four, etc.