If you have ever received an email from a deposed finance minister of some obscure country who promises you a share of a fortune if you join a scheme to get it out of the country, you have been the victim of an attempted economic crime.
This scam nets fraudsters about $700,000 annually, which seems like a lot until you realize it is not even a rounding error on the overall cost of financial crime. One estimate places the total cost to individuals, investors, companies and governments between $1.4 trillion to $3.5 trillion each year. Another estimate says fraud attacks net state-sponsored organizations, Dark Web crime syndicates, investment manipulators and embezzlers between 2% and 5% of global GDP.
As malicious actors become more sophisticated and their stings more complex, financial crimes threaten to overwhelm economies while destroying countries and businesses. In response, financial crime fighters, auditors and forensics investigators are turning to Big Data analytics, modeling and visualizations to sort through increasingly large and complicated sets as well as acquire evidence, preserve it and build criminal and civil cases against the thieves and cheats.
RSM predicts that complex software and technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence will accelerate the identification of patterns, anomalies and other telltales that motivate further investigations. It notes: “Yet despite this, data analytics, as with most technologies, is a tool – and all tools need a human to wield them.”
The Intersection of Financial Crime Forensics and Big Data
The Master of Science (M.S.) in Economic Forensics with a Specialization in Data Science online program at La Salle University equips graduates with the specialized data-centric expertise required for modern financial crime prevention, investigation and prosecution.
Among other topics, the core curriculum covers many of the most prevalent — and expensive — financial crimes, including:
- Financial statement fraud: One of the most well-known cases of financial statement fraud involved a Texas energy firm that overstated its profits, resulting in its demise and the loss of 4,000 employee pensions. The Sarbanes-Oxley Act tightened accounting processes that resulted from the Enron debacle.
- Occupational fraud and abuse: The average embezzlement yields about $1.5 million, and organizations lose 5% of annual revenue to fraudulent use of credit cards, electronic payments and cash payments.
- Computer and internet fraud: Cyber fraud — including phishing, identity theft, personal data breaches, crypto scams, ransomware breaches and tech support frauds — cost victims $6.3 billion in 2021.
As financial services institutions find themselves grappling with complicated schemes and complying with regulations designed to prevent economic crime, they are adopting data analytics and advanced technologies as proactive, front-line strategies to strike back at criminals.
“There are opportunities for data analytics to not only drive efficiencies and operational cost reductions, but more importantly to identify intelligence-led and data-driven ways to tackle financial crime,” according to EY.
What You Gain From an Advanced Degree
La Salle University’s core Economic Crime Forensics curriculum is enhanced by data science studies that prepare graduates with the skills and expertise to track transactions through mazes of digitized files and global networks that criminals use to corrupt financial systems. Specializations courses include the following:
- Data Mining: Explore economic crime forensics technologies and techniques used to analyze vast financial data sets to detect patterns and anomalies aiding economic crime investigations efficiently. The course focuses on machine learning algorithms.
- Artificial Intelligence: Discover how computers use Big Data and data mining techniques to create AI models used in IT security software, fraud investigations and credit bureaus.
- Data analysis with R: Learn the R programming language, which economic crime investigators use to analyze financial data, build models, identify anomalies and discover patterns that point to fraudulent activity.
Equipped with expertise in business law standards, accounting and auditing concepts related to corporate economic crime and strategies for conducting litigation graduates are prepared for careers in high-demand, lucrative roles such as fraud examiners, fraud investigators and forensics investigators.