How to be a PI?
March 21, 2011 8:56 PM   Subscribe

How do I become a white collar Private Eye?

I am a CPA with a passion for fraud/crime prevention/detection. I blew my chance with the FBI when I decided to get married mid-application and had a change of heart.

Now I am too old to apply. I cannot for several reasons (my knees suck for one) be a police officer to start. I am willing to go to school, I am willing to intern, I have support channels, I have money...

I am wondering if anyone has advice on the right place to start. I am crazy smart, Summa cum Laude in college, CPA on the first try... genealogy investigation is my hobby.

Please lend your 2c... I really want to capture my calling.
posted by Snackpants to Law & Government (19 answers total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
Oh man, I really want more people like you to exist and do this kind of work. I'm sorry I don't have a lead for you, but I want to encourage you to keep on doing it. Know that there's at least one person out there who's keeping an eye out on your behalf.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:05 PM on March 21, 2011

What great words of encouragement!!! It makes me feel like I'm embarking upon something important and worthy. Thank you Jon_Evil!
posted by Snackpants at 9:14 PM on March 21, 2011

I'm very attractive, very professional... I would love to be hired, infiltrate and blow out the crap. No one would see me coming. I have been a controller in for-profit business for 15 years and have seen it all. I want to be hired to kick ass and take names, quietly. Some business people are so sneaky and evil... And it pains me to see the aftermath. My interest is not a vendetta at all, just a very warm "this is what I was meant to do" thing.
posted by Snackpants at 9:23 PM on March 21, 2011

Somewhere like this? (I read that one of Tiger Woods, um, 'friends' had recently graduated as a PI from there.)
posted by malibustacey9999 at 9:23 PM on March 21, 2011

I had a LOL moment thinking of how snackpants thanks "Evil Jon" for supporting his desire to fight crime!

I kid, I kid.

On a more serious note, you can apply to reputed security firms. Many credit card companies, financial services firms and law firms have special financial crime/fraud departments, which are also good places to check out.
posted by theobserver at 9:24 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

In nearly every white collar case I've worked on, the government has had a certified fraud examiner as an expert. It seems like a useful starting point.
posted by *s at 9:26 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

theobserver...that is LOL
posted by Snackpants at 9:26 PM on March 21, 2011

*s Great!!! Thank you.
posted by Snackpants at 9:28 PM on March 21, 2011

How about doing forensic accounting? Here in DC, we know a few folks who work with the SEC.
posted by evoque at 9:31 PM on March 21, 2011

As evoque notes, forensic accounting is probably what you're after. Most of the large accounting and auditing firms will have a forensic accounting department. Some law enforcement agencies will too, but they have trouble paying the sorts of amounts that will attract anyone remotely competent.
posted by damonism at 9:36 PM on March 21, 2011

Well, to those fuckers who think that war profiteering and large-scale financial scams are the highest calling of capitalist virtue, I'm totally evil and part of the socialist scourge, etc. etc.

Also, I just recalled Michael Moore's old Corporate Cops bit, and wonder you might be interested working in the research department for his projects (I'm assuming he has one). He's a little more direct-action populist than take-it-to-the-law, but most corporate fraud cases get off with a wrist slap or with legislation that lets them cash in on the ways to get around their old fraud.

Another, and more establishment though is in the research department for a financial reform–minded think tank. Both of these are less sexy than white-collar investigator, but involve smilar work for a CPA who wants to sniff out rats.
posted by Jon_Evil at 9:42 PM on March 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

There just might be a job for you in records management, which would tie into forensic accounting. There are all sorts of data forensic career paths you could take these days. Maybe working for a data recovery firm or a company like Urgentis Digital Crisis Solutions would be a good fit. I'm trying to think of the name of the field that Urgentis covers, but it's not coming to mind right now. Good luck! I think you're on to something fun.
posted by Calzephyr at 9:52 PM on March 21, 2011

Kroll Associates
posted by Ideefixe at 9:54 PM on March 21, 2011

Oops,link. I know someone who just got hired after 10 years as a journalist.
posted by Ideefixe at 9:56 PM on March 21, 2011

Nthing forensic accounting. And the FBI is not the only agency that does investigative work - you could look at government civilian work (for the Fed or a contractor) and concentrate on internal controls.
posted by pointystick at 4:15 AM on March 22, 2011

Hi, I'm one of those lazy, overpaid Federal regulators you hear everybody bad-mouthing lately. I can tell you first-hand that there are very few agencies I can think of that are not short-handed on their compliance staff, particularly with regards to people with accounting skills. Of course, the private sector pays much better and teabaggers won't want to string you up by your pocket-protector, but Fed work is good work.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 5:16 AM on March 22, 2011

forensic accounting for the win!
posted by canine epigram at 5:50 AM on March 22, 2011

If you'd like to get in some practice, job-wise, in investigating, look for work as a prospect researcher. Large nonprofits and higher ed institutions have jobs for people who essentially are PIs from their desks - looking up family histories, wealth, real estate, etc. to determine if a target has the ability and propensity to give a large charitable gift. You say you'd like to catch bad guys, but if you'd like to use your natural talents for a slightly different purpose, prospect research might be a fun place to start and get your feet wet in the desk-bound research game. Entry-level prospect research jobs aren't too tough to come by for a person with your background, especially in a wealthy state like California.
posted by juniperesque at 6:19 AM on March 22, 2011

How about adding to your CPA with a CFE- Certified Fraud Examiner? Here is the ACFE's website. It should be a good place to start.

In the meantime, how about moving into Internal Audit? We (yes I'm one) spend more time looking for anomalies than straight accounting. I don't have my CFE (I have a CIA) but I'm tempted to get one to add to the certification pile.
posted by JohntheContrarian at 3:23 PM on March 22, 2011

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