Mauricio Vera started his career as a musician but realized making a living was difficult when having to depend on other musicians. Vera consequently enrolled at Florida International University to pursue a Bachelor of Business degree with a focus on marketing and international business. A few years later, he landed a job with a major cruise line reviewing payment data.
This set the stage for the next evolution in his career: becoming a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). Currently, Vera is enrolled at Florida Atlantic University’s School of Accounting Executive Program where he is due to graduate with a Master of Accounting degree in digital forensics and data analytics by the summer of 2021.
Recently, Vera was promoted to auditor, and with his CFE credential, he’s ready to take on the next challenge in his career.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
It started when I enrolled in the Accounting Fraud Examination Concepts course at Florida Atlantic University (FAU) with Dr. Jay Leiner, CFE. He would tell the class stories about when he worked for law enforcement interviewing suspects and solving cases. It was all so fascinating! His assignments were very challenging and he taught us about having the right mindset when investigating fraud: You have to think like a fraudster to catch one.
There was a suspected fraud case during one of my semesters at FAU, which only heightened my interest in the field. The suspicious payment came across my data set and was flagged in my process, but the cybersecurity team had already begun an investigation. This was the first time my process had alerted me to a potential case.
What is a memorable moment where you knew this was the right path for you?
I am only starting my career in this field, but I did have a memorable moment in Dr. Leiner’s class. We had to complete a project where half of the class were to create a fraud scenario and be fraud suspects, and the other half of the class were to investigate the circumstances through interviews and present their findings in front of the class. I was in the investigative group and my task was to interview one suspect, but I was so excited about the assignment that I ultimately volunteered to conduct multiple rounds of interviews.
As the interviews progressed, I had a nagging feeling that one suspect was being dishonest with me. In the last interview round, that asked admission-seeking questions, the suspect confessed! I was surprised along with the rest of the class and was unsure of how to end the interview, so it was like a “mic drop” moment. Dr. Leiner said that it was the first time anyone had elicited a confession in his class. This was a proud moment for me. I had solved the case when the professor expected me to only dig up clues.
Why did you join the 90-Day CFE Exam Challenge?
I joined the 90-Day CFE Exam Challenge because I needed to set a hard deadline for myself. I had purchased my study materials in December of 2019, and it was already September of 2020 when I received an email that the challenge would begin the following month.
What did your study method look like?
My study method was rather complicated because I was also taking classes for the Master of Accounting degree. For the first nine months, I decided to read the Fraud Examiners Manual in its entirety. Every night, I tackled a few review questions after reading the manual. Once I finished a section, I did not start the next section until I completed all the review questions for that section.
When I joined the challenge, I was nearing the end of the Fraud Examiners Manual. When I finished reading it, I decided to go back through the Prep Course questions of the previous sections and get them all correct, section by section. I even created a study guide for myself using the Review Questions. Once I felt comfortable with each section’s Review Questions, I would take the Practice Exam for that section. I knew I was ready for the final exam when I scored over 85% for each Practice Exam.
How did the challenge help you accomplish your goal of passing the CFE Exam?
The challenge helped me by staying focused and on track. It was very encouraging to read the other participants’ success stories as they passed the exam. There were also helpful hints that the participants communicated weekly.
What advice do you have for anyone preparing to take the CFE Exam?
My advice to participants is if you are reading the Fraud Examiners Manual cover to cover, do not sweat the small details — there are countless instances of them! Focus on the big picture instead. Set deadlines to read each section, review sections, take practice exams and complete the final exam. This really helps to remain focused.
Stay engaged with fellow challenge participants as they may be able to provide useful study tips. Finally, review the resources provided by the community in advance of taking your final exam.
What sort of hobbies do you enjoy outside of work?
Outside of work I enjoy scuba diving. I am lucky to live in southeast Florida, where diving is plentiful. I enjoy the weightless feeling of swimming below 90 feet of seawater where the sea life is in abundance and the worries of the world have been left on dry land. I also enjoy playing hard rock on the guitar and classical piano in my spare time.
ACFE membership is open to individuals of all job functions, industries and levels of experience who are interested in the prevention, detection and deterrence of fraud. If you want to level up your anti-fraud career, we can help.
SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners