Skip to main content

What Does a Financial Crimes Investigator Do?

September 28, 2023

Fraud impacted 51% of organizations worldwide from 2020 to 2021, according to PwC’s 2022 Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey. That figure is the highest level the firm has ever recorded. 

More than half of the organizations that were victims of fraud reported financial losses, with over a quarter of them reporting losses exceeding $1 million. Financial crimes such as fraud not only cause severe monetary loss to individuals and businesses, they also undermine public trust. 

As technology evolves, so do the tools criminals use to commit financial crimes. The digital landscape opens new avenues for criminals to exploit weak spots in online transactions, payment systems and sensitive data storage.

Working alongside law enforcement, financial crimes investigators play a pivotal role in preventing, detecting and resolving financial crimes. An advanced education can help prepare individuals for a career protecting  

What Is a Financial Crimes Investigator? 

A financial crimes investigator, also called a financial crimes specialist or analyst, investigates all manner of financial crimes, such as money laundering and tax evasion, and takes proactive measures to prevent them in the future. These dedicated individuals play a crucial role in safeguarding financial systems.

Financial crimes investigators typically collaborate with law enforcement agencies at the local, state and federal levels.

Financial Crimes Investigator Responsibilities

Financial crimes investigators analyze financial records, ferreting out suspicious patterns or behaviors that point to potential criminal activity. They also review clients’ financial records to ensure compliance.

These professionals play a pivotal role in investigating leads and following up on tips about possible financial crimes. They apply their expertise in data analysis and forensic accounting to uncover evidence, trace the flow of funds and establish a clear picture of the individuals involved. Through their efforts, financial crime investigators contribute to building legal cases.

They often act proactively, identifying and flagging suspicious client activity, and employ sophisticated monitoring systems and advanced technologies to identify threats in real time.

The following are typical financial crimes an investigator may encounter:


Financial crimes investigators spot and decipher fraudulent activities, including schemes involving insurance, securities, credit cards and electronic payment systems. 

By examining financial records, conducting interviews and employing forensic accounting methods, they can piece together evidence to build a comprehensive case against fraudsters.


Financial crimes specialists also investigate embezzlement, the theft of funds or assets entrusted to an individual or entity. They examine financial records and transactions to trace funds and uncover evidence of embezzlement.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a significant concern in the digital age. According to ConsumerAffairs, instances of identity theft have grown by an astonishing 584% over the last 20 years. Financial crimes investigators employ their financial expertise and tech savvy to identify individuals or organizations who have stolen people’s identities and used them for personal gain, such as opening a credit card account under someone else’s name.

How to Become a Financial Crimes Investigator 

Individuals can qualify to become a financial crimes investigator through a combination of education and experience. A typical path to a career in this field involves the following steps.


Most employers of financial crimes investigators prefer candidates with at least a bachelor’s degree to demonstrate a minimum level of knowledge, often with majors in subjects such as accounting, business administration or criminal justice. 

Additionally, aspiring investigators who pursue an advanced degree that gives graduates a comprehensive education in financial crime, cybersecurity and law enforcement are often at a significant advantage in the job market.


While the experience requirements for becoming a financial crimes investigator vary, gaining experience in a related field can help build valuable skills.

  • Finance or accounting: These sectors help professionals gain an understanding of financial regulations and procedures.
  • Law enforcement: Experience in law enforcement provides valuable insights into the criminal mind and the investigatory process.
  • Information technology: IT experience can develop skills, such as data analytics, for examining financial information for outliers or inconsistencies.

Financial Crimes Investigator Salary

Financial crimes investigators can earn competitive salaries. According to Payscale, the median annual salary for fraud investigators, a category of financial crimes investigators, was around $67,100 as of June 2023. 

However, individual salaries can vary greatly depending on an individual’s level of experience and the type of employer they work for. 

Advance Your Career as a Financial Crimes Investigator 

In today’s complex financial landscape, the role of a financial crimes investigator is more crucial than ever. Criminal activities like fraud and identity theft pose significant threats to the finances and reputations of individuals and businesses. 

If you are passionate about combating financial crimes and seek a rewarding career in this field, consider advancing your knowledge and skills through Virginia Commonwealth University’s online Master of Arts in Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness program. 

With a curriculum that covers cybersecurity, law enforcement policy and private sector preparedness, you’ll learn how to work within and alongside law enforcement agencies using data analytics and forensics.

Discover how you can advance your career with Virginia Commonwealth University.