Hina Jafferi – An Accomplished Fraud Investigator:
From a country where sometimes women are not even allowed to study, we came around a female fraud investigator. The Hub Daily proudly introduces Hina Jafferi, a fraud investigator whose passion knew no boundaries. Starting her career as an auditor, Hina Jafferi made her way to the top.
The Hub Daily got a chance to interview Hina Jafferi about her unique profession. Read on to know more about fraud investigation.
What drove you to become a fraud investigator?
I was always keen to probe into matters, never settled for face value. My sister was my investigation subject. 😄
Later, when I started my career at the professional firm as an auditor, I discovered the area of forensics. I read about their work, developed more interest, and eventually applied to switch and get into the Investigations team.
How does fraud investigation work?
Investigations can happen for several reasons. Some examples are an anonymous tipoff, some suspicion in routine audits or reviews, a financial loss etc. Once allegations are brought forward to the Investigations team, it is determined how much you want to investigate. The scope of work is defined with an agreed time and estimated effort.
An investigation plan is developed where we decide how we will investigate and what we need. We determine what sources of information we can use. We then prepare,
- A list of documents we want to inspect, primarily cross
- We make a list of people we want to interview. We never reveal the purpose and usually pose as an internal auditor, a periodic reviewer who has come for process improvements. There is a whole set of techniques used for different types of interviews.
- Another list of electronic media and offices that we want to search is made. From imaging a copy of suspects’ laptop secretly to taking cloud backup of their phone, have done it all. We then perform email or other media searches with our planned keywords to find evidence.
- There are also other technical procedures involved.
Once we find evidence to support the allegations or otherwise, we draft an investigation report detailing the whole investigation and allegation chronology. What is our evidence, how we found it and sometimes what we recommend as the next steps?
Companies then use the investigation report to initiate legal proceedings against the suspect or, in some cases, directly terminate the employee.
Since it is a very specialised field, what are the biggest challenges you face?
The biggest challenge is that it is a susceptible area of work. Extreme caution is exercised. One has to be 200% sure of everything that goes in a report, and every fact you state has to be supported by a reference, so there are huge rooms full of backing evidence for each piece of information. It can get very exhausting at times.
Also, there are times when you cannot find any evidence after searching for days and weeks. It feels very frustrating.
If someone wants to take up a similar career, what course of action should they take?
If anyone wants to pursue a career in forensics, they need to have a base in either accounting or internal audit ideally. The global qualification for forensics is an online certificate called Certified Fraud Examiner, awarded by the ACFE.
One can also decide to go into Forensic Technology, for which an IT degree with a focus on e-discovery, data analytics or cybersecurity is the way.
If you were not a fraud investigator, what other careers would you have chosen?
In a parallel universe, I would be in something more leisurely, lighter, less intense. Maybe a chef, a photographer or a historian.
Given that we are a developing country, what do you think is the scope of your profession in Pakistan?
The ‘Big4’ firms in Pakistan offer services in Forensics. Interested people should try to explore how they can get in and start a career. Otherwise, starting from audit as a stepping stone also works, like how I did.