Posted by Jake Martin.
The year of 2020 is certainly not a typical year considering all the events that took place. One major topic that has the whole world worrying is COVID-19 which is considered a pandemic. Billions of people around the world have been negatively affected by this virus and unfortunately many have lost their lives. COVID-19 has certainly disrupted forensic accounting in many ways throughout the legal system along with the employees who work in the court system. Many of these employees are required to work remotely from home which does not normally happen. Having in-person meetings with clients and co-workers is an everyday task that has been altered by this virus. Working remotely definitely presents its own challenges such as communication issues and heavy usage of technology to stay connected. Forensic accountants must carry out face-to-face interviews, attend dispositions, and ultimately question suspected fraudsters. These tasks now have to be done through the computer because transmission of the virus is highly likely through close contact.
Adam Hanover, CPA/CFF, managing director of restructuring and dispute resolution at CohnReznick LLP, believes that virtual interviews are a poor substitute for the real thing. In the article, Hanover stated, “Zoom is just not the same, The lack of human contact is challenging. Sometimes, you need to be in the room with an individual to sense whether he or she is hiding something. A personal connection with someone who may or may not be an adversary is of utmost importance in our line of work.” I personally agree with Adam Hanover because while conducting interviews, body language and fluent communication are necessary for properly evaluating the person. Without these factors, poor judgement can be made which ultimately can change the final decision of the court case.
With the emergence of COVID-19, the fraud terrain has changed with new forms of fraud occurring at rates never seen before. One of the new forms of fraud relates to relief checks which was given by the government for individuals that couldn’t afford their normal expenses. Criminals have taken to selling bogus checks on the dark web, sometimes redepositing them three or four times. Before listing the check as fraudulent, the check must be confirmed and then immediately removed from access to the user. Due to COVID 19, many legal issues have been put on hold because in-person authentication is required and tasks through Zoom tremendously impact productivity. Overall, continually touching base with your legal team is especially important during this pandemic to ensure communication and transparency is continued. Forensic accountants remain optimistic about their circumstances and believe the virus will eventually become less of a factor while conducting their legal work.
Jake is a master’s in accounting major at the Feliciano School of Business, Montclair State University, Class of 2021.