The numerous headline-grabbing accounting scandals of recent years—Enron, WorldCom, Tyco, HealthSouth, Bernie Madoff, Lehman Brothers, and Olympus, among others—would be reason enough to study the serious issue of fraud. But the methods used in these cases are not new; they are merely variations of tried-and-true scams.

Pliny the Elder first wrote of fraud over two thousand years ago when he described the adulteration of wine by crooked merchants in Rome. Since that time, fraud has become an increasingly serious issue. Now, in the information age, it can threaten the very underpinnings of our economy.

Accountants have historically had an important role in the detection and deterrence of fraud. But fraud, as you will read in the following pages, is much more than numbers. It involves complex human behaviors such as greed and deception, factors that are difficult to identify and quantify. In short, books, records, and computers don't commit fraud—people do.

Understanding why and how “ordinary” people engage in fraudulent behavior has been my life's work. Like many readers of this book, I began my professional career as an accountant. But after two years toiling in the ledgers of one of the large international accounting firms, I realized that auditing was not my calling. In search of adventure, I became a real-life, gun-toting FBI agent.

The truth is that I was more often armed with my Sharp model QS-2130 calculator than my trusty Smith & Wesson model 60 five-shot stainless-steel ...

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