Q & A with Stephanie Ziegler, CFE

Stephanie Ziegler of Oregon recently became a CFE after attending the CFE Exam Review Course. When Stephanie is not working, she loves to read and travel with her husband. She also has a passion for sports. But a couple a months ago, she put some time aside to focus on accomplishing her goal of obtaining the CFE credential. Stephanie feels that the concepts she learned while studying to be a CFE are fundamental in her efforts to create a fraud risk management program at the credit union where she works. She also feels that the information she learned has influenced her work as a fraud investigator and witness in legal cases.

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential?

Ziegler: I was officially awarded the credential on November 8, 2018.

Coach: You attended the CFE Exam Review Course in New York 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.

Ziegler: Participating in the on-site course and then taking the test afterward created a completely immersive atmosphere. I was able to spend each day reviewing a section and focusing on areas that I wanted to improve in, and then I would study and test that new knowledge. I didn’t have to worry about forgetting to study a certain concept because the instructors covered all aspects of each section. And I like the way the course is structured; as you progress through the days, the concepts begin building off of one another, and you see how different areas of fraud are similar. This helps when taking the test.

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

Ziegler: I found the four-day course to be extremely helpful. I had been studying on my own using the CFE Exam Prep Course, but having the ability to ask questions and discuss concepts with other attendees increased my comfort level with some of the more difficult concepts. I saw an increase of at least 5% on my official exam scores over my practice tests, and I attribute that directly to my on-site experience.

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

Ziegler: I work for a credit union and focus on fraud and the Bank Secrecy Act (BSA). We are currently building our fraud risk management program, and the concepts that I have learned while studying to be a CFE are fundamental in creating that program in our institution. Additionally, what I learned has influenced my work as a fraud investigator and witness in legal cases.

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

Ziegler: I began by studying with the CFE Exam Prep Course, and I used that to become familiar with the concepts and format of the CFE Exam. Once I was in New York for the CFE Exam Review Course, I used the Prep Course to prepare myself for the section that was to be reviewed the following day. Each night I would take a practice test for the next day’s section, and then I would take the practice test again in the morning before class began. That was helpful because I could see what areas I was weaker in on the practice tests, and I knew to focus on those throughout the day when I had the opportunity to ask questions. If needed, I took another practice test at lunch or reviewed topics with other attendees.

Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?

Ziegler: I absolutely would recommend this course. I felt like the CFE Exam Prep Course gave me a great knowledge base for the exam, but the on-site CFE Exam Review Course took the learning experience to the next level. The benefits of in-person instruction were essential for me.

Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?

Ziegler: I have wanted to work in fraud since I began working for financial institutions over 15 years ago. It seemed like a fascinating and ever-evolving area to be in. I have been working fraud cases for almost six years now and still love it every day. I love the complexity of fraud and the challenge that it presents. I also love being able to help people who have been the victims of fraud. It is very rewarding to be someone who they can trust and rely on while they are going through such a difficult time.

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?

Ziegler: I am a constant learner. I love to read and travel with my husband. I also love sports; I’ll watch almost anything, but I’m most passionate about NCAA football, women’s basketball, and Major League Baseball. Education and literacy are extremely important to me, so I spend time volunteering with local schools and organizations that focus on improving education and literacy in my community.

I am a constant learner. I love to read and travel with my husband. I also love sports; I’ll watch almost anything, but I’m most passionate about NCAA football, women’s basketball, and Major League Baseball. Education and literacy are extremely important to me, so I spend time volunteering with local schools and organizations that focus on improving education and literacy in my community.

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

Ziegler: I don’t think one could over-prepare for these exams. I found it most important to set aside a specific amount of time to study throughout my day; otherwise, it was easy for me to tell myself that I’d just get to it later, but then that wouldn’t happen. Also, once you’re on-site taking the course, go for it and take the test, even though it’s optional! The information is fresh in your mind, and there is no downside to trying!

Stephen Enebeli Annan, CFE

Stephen Enebeli Annan of Ghana recently became a CFE by studying with the CFE Exam Prep Course. When Stephen is not working, he enjoys watching soccer, preaching, and listening to gospel music. But this year, he put some time aside to focus on accomplishing his goal of obtaining the CFE credential. Stephen feels that the CFE credential has given him a new paradigm, as well as the knowledge and professional skill set required to prevent, deter, and detect fraud. As an auditor at a practice firm, the CFE credential aids him in working effectively and efficiently to deliver improved fraud risk management and tailored solutions to his clients.

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential?

Annan: I received my CFE credential on March 29, 2018.

Coach: Please describe your experience using the CFE Exam Prep Course?

Annan: I had a great experience using the Prep Course as a one-stop shop for the CFE Exam. It was very user-friendly and well-tailored with an exam-focused approach. In fact, it demystifies the voluminous Fraud Examiners Manual by shoring knowledge and honing the skills necessary for the exam and eventual practice in a holistic manner.

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

Annan: I liked the timeline of deadlines and achievements, as it allowed me to set dates of completion and track the completion rate for myself, and the practice exam, which simulates the CFE Exam.

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

Annan: It took me about three months to complete the Prep Course. I challenged myself and studied with the Prep Course for at least an hour every day after work, and I spent a little more time reviewing the Prep Course on weekends.

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

Annan: I feel that the CFE credential has given me a new paradigm, as well as the knowledge and professional skill set required to prevent, deter, and detect fraud. As an auditor in a practice firm, the CFE credential aids me in working effectively and efficiently to deliver improved fraud risk management and tailored solutions to clients.

Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?

Annan: Definitely. Yes, I will recommend the Prep Course to my colleagues!

Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?

Annan: I realized I started becoming passionate about fighting fraud during my formative years when I noticed that I disliked, with utter passion, seeing or hearing of willful acts of deceit by psychopathic and sociopathic snakes in suits and ties and the unscrupulous individuals who denied many of the resources meant for them, thereby negatively affecting the lives of other people. I always wished to help make such persons accountable for their actions and to help prevent similar actions from happening again in the future by creating awareness of such schemes. This passion was fueled during the days when I was pursuing my first degree at the university; I engrossed myself in forensic accounting research in anticipation of my dissertation, but then I nosedived into the anti-fraud and anti-corruption fight. Not to mince words, but fraud is becoming an industry, and anti-fraud fighters must be up to the task of fighting this canker, which is the bane of development. Ever since then, my passion for fighting fraud has been unabated.

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?

Annan: I listen to good gospel music. At times I watch soccer, and other times I conduct research about socioeconomic issues. I also love to preach, share the gospel, and assist people whenever the opportunity presents itself.

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

Annan: Build a study plan and stick to it. As you have decided to pursue this prestigious certification, be committed to the plan. Set realistic timelines for your studies and avoid procrastination. Take about two to four practice tests. Remember, a champion does not give up at any point during a race, so keep on keeping on. You can make this happen. Be a CFE.

Q & A with Jacob Goldwire

Jacob Goldwire of North Carolina recently became a CFE after attending a CFE Exam Review Course. When Jacob is not working, he enjoys golfing, coaching his son’s little league team, and spending time with his family. But, this past August, he put some time aside to focus on accomplishing his goal of obtaining the CFE credential. Jacob made obtaining his CFE certification a priority because he believes the credential will help him achieve his educational, professional, and career goals. 

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential?

Goldwire: September 12, 2018

Coach: You attended the CFE Exam Review Course in Chicago, IL 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.

Goldwire: The ACFE CFE Exam Prep Course was pivotal preparation for me prior to attending the CFE Exam Review Course and taking the CFE Exam. I reviewed the majority of the material approximately one and a half months prior to attending the live course, so the Review Course reinforced what I had already reviewed and prepared for at home. In addition, the course provided specificity of what would be discussed and tested on each day, which meant I had to focus on only one area of the exam at a time. I think anyone who is serious about attaining their CFE certification should attend the CFE Exam Review Course.

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

Goldwire: I think the best parts of the CFE Exam Review Course were the specificity given to each part of the exam review and the ability to take the written exam immediately following that day’s review. The course allowed maximum retain ability for each section of the exam due to each day focusing on only one portion of the overall exam material. The two instructors were awesome in providing vital instruction on how to focus on the volume of material being presented and the specific information highlighted throughout each day before taking each section of the CFE Exam. Providing meals, snacks, and beverages throughout each day was tremendously helpful in providing a respite from the stress of each day’s review and test.

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

Goldwire: I have spent most of my career as a Special Agent, US Army CID, in specialized units, with the majority of my investigative time spent in Acquisition/Procurement Fraud and Economic Crimes Investigations. Receiving my CFE certification was the next logical step in pursuing the next level of educational, professional, and career progressions. Aside from the financial benefits the certification can afford, it is the additional educational and professional courses, taught by some of the leading experts in the field, that made attaining this certification a priority for my overall professional career. My current assignment as the Law Enforcement Subject Matter Expert (SME) for the US Army Special Operations Command, Commander’s Oversight Review Board (CORB), provides the organization yet another sharpened tool to utilize in support of the dynamic mission this organization engages in daily.

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

Goldwire: My organization purchased the CFE Exam Prep Course for me about two months prior to the date of the course. Once I received the course material, I took a practice test in each of the sections to get a baseline on my grasp of the information. I passed some of the sections but struggled with others. The areas I had the most difficulty with were the ones I concentrated my daily and weekly reviews on prior to attending the course. I tried not to overwhelm myself with attempting to complete an entire section in one sitting; I would usually review one hundred or so questions and then take a practice test to see if I was progressing. As a result of this study method, by the time the CFE Exam Review Course arrived, I had passed every section at least once. This method allowed me the flexibility to fully concentrate on what was being presented during the live course because I had already acquired a baseline understanding of the volume of material and the types of questions I would potentially see on the actual exam.

Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?

Goldwire: I would strongly encourage my colleagues to take the course and pursue the certification. It is not only beneficial while still serving in an Active Duty position, but it is also beneficial once folks like me retire or move on to seek a civilian profession outside of the military. Most of the Supervisory Special Agents, like myself, who have worked for any length of time in Acquisitions or Economic Crimes see this certification as one of the most important credentials an agent can receive outside of their agency’s badge and credentials.

Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?

Goldwire: As mentioned previously, most of my investigative experience has been focused on or centered around acquisitions, procurement fraud, and economic crimes. Initially, I was not all that excited about fraud and fraud investigations until I realized the level of complexity, amount of financial damage, and frequency in which fraud or fraudulent activities occur within the U.S. government and financial institutions. Some of the best investigations on which I have worked, solved, and assisted the government in recouping stolen money or property have been related to some level of fraud, embezzlement, procurement fraud, or other white-collar crime—in some cases, on a global level. On the surface, fraud investigations might seem mundane and very boring to an outsider, but to those of us who specialize in or have worked on these types of investigations, they can be exciting, dangerous, and rewarding all at the same time.

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?

Goldwire: I’m an avid golfer (nine handicap), so when I’m not working, coaching my son’s little league football team, or spending time with my family, I’m on the golf course working to improve my game. Much like attaining educational and professional education when it comes to fraud, in golf, I’m always seeking ways to more effectively and efficiently get that little white ball in the hole.

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

Goldwire: I would recommend purchasing the CFE Exam Prep Course material as early in the process as possible. If utilized properly, it provides you with all the materials and tools you will need in preparation for the CFE Exam. In my opinion, taking advantage of the CFE Exam Review Course in conjunction with the study material almost guarantees success on the CFE Exam the first time you take it. By no means am I saying it will be easy; even with dedicated preparation, the examination itself can be a tremendous mental drain. However, I do feel that studying with the CFE Exam Prep Course and attending the CFE Exam Review Course allowed me to achieve first-time success and attain my coveted CFE certification.

 

Q&A with Suzanne Reed, CFE

Suzanne Reed of Kentucky received her CFE credential this year after studying with the CFE Exam Prep Course. Suzanne believes her new CFE credential, along with her experience working in the anti-money laundering field as a Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) officer, will put her a step above the rest. When Suzanne is not working, she enjoys traveling.

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential?

Reed: I was certified January 2018.

Coach: Please describe your experience using the CFE Exam Prep Course.

Reed: The Prep Course was instrumental to passing the test. I was familiar with parts of the Prep Course, but there were concepts that were foreign to me (for example, health care fraud and interrogating suspects). The way I prepared with the software worked very well for me and saved a lot of time. If I had read the Fraud Examiners Manual, it would have taken me much longer to complete the test.

After I took the initial test to learn the order I should take the course, with the most familiar section being first, I began answering the questions as a whole. I could then see the parts of a section in which I really needed to focus my attention. For the concepts that I needed to put the most attention into, I pulled out the Fraud Examiners Manual and studied that content; then, I would continue with the questions with a better understanding of the material. Once I felt confident and was able to answer most of the Prep Course questions correctly, I took each timed practice exam. By doing this, I scored high enough on each practice test to meet ACFE’s Money-Back Pass Guarantee the first time and moved on to the next section of the test. I repeated this process until I completed all four sections.

Then, I began taking the exams in the reverse order I studied; the section I last studied was the first section that I took the exam on. The one mistake I realized after I took my first exam was that even though I would answer a Prep Course question correctly, I would not read the question’s explanation about the answer. There is a lot of useful information in the question explanation. It seemed that the majority of the questions I had while taking the exams were answered in the question explanation and not the actual question asked, so my best advice is to read the question explanation. As I worked my way through the exams, I answered all the Prep Course questions and read the explanations for each question; then, I focused on the sections where I answered questions incorrectly or felt uncertain about the material.

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

Reed: It helped me focus on the sections I needed more help on, and it saved me a ton of reading. It also helped me get a feel for the way the questions were going to be asked on the exam. The Prep Course was most helpful.

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

Reed: In reality, it took me only a couple of months to study, even though I had the Prep Course for eight or nine months. I began to study when I first received the course, but work became incredibly demanding, so I let the Prep Course sit on the back burner. The 90-day challenge was what I needed to make me finish. I had a family issue in the middle of the 90-day challenge, and I stopped studying regularly in the middle of it.

I studied at least five days a week, but sometimes I studied more. I dedicated at least 45 minutes to an hour each day, sometimes more.

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

Reed: I am a Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) officer at a bank, so I work in anti-money laundering (AML) and fraud all the time. When you look at job postings in the same field—at my level, along with experience—they usually ask for one or two certifications and one is the CFE certification.

Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?

Reed: Yes, for the knowledge, if nothing else. But it does help get your foot in the door if you have experience. If you do not have the experience, start at the bottom and work your way up. I started as a teller while pursuing my degree in accounting. I moved to deposit operations, and then I moved to the compliance department. If you prove your worth in every position, no matter how menial it seems, your effort will be noticed, and you will be delegated more responsibility. Managers always know who they can trust to do a good job with whatever they hand you, so do your best and don’t complain about the work you get. Just because you have a certification does not mean you automatically get a job; the certification is helpful in getting an interview and deciding among the other candidates who are in the running for a position. I work in banking, so if I applied for a position in health care, I would not expect to get that position just because I passed a test.

Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?

Reed: My interest began as a teller, and it spiked when I moved to card services and began working debit card disputes.

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?

Reed: I love to travel for fun, as well as attend conferences for work. I love to learn. When I learn something new, I consider it a good day.

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

Reed: Read the question explanation provided in each Prep Course question, and work diligently.

Q&A with Michele Barron, CFE

Michele Barron of Georgia recently became a CFE after attending a CFE Exam Review Course. Michele put some time aside to focus on accomplishing her goal of obtaining the CFE credential, as she believes that the CFE credential is a way to set herself apart from other auditors in her profession. The CFE credential identifies her specialization in fraud investigation and qualifies her skills and experience in that area. When Michele is not working, she enjoys taking mini weekend vacations with her husband.

Coach: When did you receive your CFE credential?
Barron:
I earned my CFE credential on May 25, 2018.

Coach: You attended the CFE Exam Review Course in Atlanta, Georgia; 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.
Barron:
The Atlanta experience was intense and well worth the effort. Each day focused on a different section of the Fraud Examiners Manual and included stories of the presenters’ experiences. The classroom experience helped transform the material from conceptual ideas and theories to practical applications in the field, making it easier to understand the manual and be successful on the test. It was an open classroom experience in which students could ask questions, request clarification on topics, and get assistance as needed. Then, each day ended with additional time to independently review the material before taking the test. All tests were available should the student need to retake a failed test or test on another section.

Coach: What did you like most about the CFE Exam Review Course?
Barron:
I liked the fact that the tests were written instead of being online. I felt more relaxed in this environment and appreciated the ability to answer the more challenging questions last and focus on the more familiar questions first. I also liked that the tests were scored immediately so that I could leave that evening knowing whether I passed, which allowed me to relax before resuming the CFE Exam Review Course the following day.

Coach: In what ways do you feel that your new CFE credential will be beneficial to you in your current profession?
Barron:
The CFE credential is a way to set myself apart from other auditors in my profession. The credential identifies my specialization in fraud investigation and qualifies my skills and experience in this area.

Coach: How did you prepare yourself to sit for the exam on-site? Did you spend any additional time studying after class each day? 
Barron:
I began studying the material three months prior to the CFE Exam Review Course. With the use of the CFE Exam Prep Course, I began by taking the preassessment test to see which areas I should focus on. I completed several of the review questions in each section and took practice tests for all four sections before attending the on-site review course. Then, after the daily classroom presentations, I scanned my notes from that day’s session for about 30 minutes before sitting for the exam.  
 
Coach: Would you recommend this course to your colleagues?
Barron:
I have already recommended the course to my colleagues. The course makes it easier to focus on and understand the material in the Fraud Examiners Manual and to set aside time to complete the examination without unnecessary distractions. The on-site review course is also a great way to network and meet others interested in fighting fraud throughout the state and federal government, as well as in private industry.

Coach: How did you become passionate about fighting fraud? 
Barron:
I was exposed to fraud early in my career with the IRS. Coordinating with fraud advisors and criminal investigators exposed me to a whole other area of investigations. I find working on cases that involve deliberate deceit and intentional actions more satisfying to resolve and get a feeling that justice has prevailed when individuals are held accountable for their actions.

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? 
Barron:
I am a travel enthusiast. When I am not traveling for work, my husband and I take mini vacations on weekends and plan big trips every couple of years. We have a bucket list of places throughout the world that we plan to visit. Unfortunately, the list seems to be growing faster than we’re checking things off. 
 
Coach: Do you have any study tips or suggestions for aspiring CFEs? 
Barron:
Take the time out of your busy day to accomplish this goal. Make a plan and modify it as necessary, but you must keep the test a priority. In the end, it will be worth your time and effort when your signed certificate arrives in the mail.