Paul McCormack, CFE, began his career in anti-fraud as a forensic accountant and after gaining a wealth of experience, he made the leap and started his own freelance writing business in the fraud and compliance space. Paul has written for countless publications and companies throughout the industry, including Fraud Magazine.
How did you become passionate about fighting fraud?
My career as an anti-fraud professional happened by accident. In my first job as a forensic accountant, I traveled a great deal and became interested in the airline industry. When I contacted a headhunter who worked with Delta, the only role she had available was a project manager in charge of fraud investigations. Initially, I turned down the chance to interview for the role as the fraud cases I had worked on as a forensic accountant weren’t that challenging.
Twenty-four hours later, I changed my mind. While the fraud cases I had worked on weren’t as demanding, I’d only been exposed to a handful of cases. It dawned on me that there was much I had to learn, so I took the opportunity. I interviewed and joined Delta as a project manager and was later promoted to the manager of Delta’s Revenue Protection Unit, with responsibility for passenger, agency and employee investigations worldwide.
How did you make the switch from being in the industry to creating content?
Making the switch to creating content was another accident. While studying for an MBA, I received compliments from professors on written assignments. After graduating, I decided to see if I could freelance on the side and develop my writing skills. I signed up for a freelance writing newsletter and read a help-wanted ad for writers with knowledge of economics, accounting and the law. I applied and started receiving writing assignments immediately.
For years, I continued to write on the side, picking up new clients through word of mouth. In 2014, I was between companies and decided to take a leap and focus on writing full time. Within weeks I had a steady client base. Today, my business is thriving. I work with clients around the globe to develop fraud, security and compliance-related content. It’s demanding work, yet it is incredibly gratifying to see my work in print — although most of the time I serve as a ghostwriter.
What are some challenges of writing about fraud?
Anyone who fights fraud for a living knows how quickly the landscape changes. Similar to fighting fraud, writing about fraud means I must stay up to date on the latest tools and tactics. For me, that’s the biggest challenge. I’m often asked to immerse myself in a complex topic and then develop content to help others understand the nuances of a new fraud scheme or innovative technology designed to prevent it. That requires reading countless articles, white papers, blog posts and interviewing subject matter experts. With that said, I enjoy a challenge and writing about fraud or any of the areas I cover is rarely dull.
What is an important lesson you’ve learned in your career?
Don’t be too quick to judge. This lesson is applicable when evaluating potential career changes, fraud suspects or any other circumstance which involves a degree of uncertainty. If possible, give yourself the gift of time to assess a situation fully. And if you make a mistake, don’t be afraid to admit it and reverse course.
What is important to you about being a CFE?
Earning the CFE designation opened my eyes to fraud. The breadth and depth of subjects covered in the CFE exam gave me a solid foundation to build my career as an anti-fraud professional, then launch my writing career many years later. While I’ve lost count of the fraud investigations I’ve conducted and managed, articles I’ve written and presentations I’ve delivered, this is still much I don’t know. Maintaining my certification, reading Fraud Magazine and writing for the ACFE provide constant reminders that fraud is constantly evolving. To stay relevant and serve my clients, I must commit myself to the lifelong learning that the ACFE provides.
SOURCE: ACFE Insights – A Publication of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners