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There is some interesting information that every shareholder, business owner or top level management should know about fraud and fraud prevention. Here are some of the tips given by the ACFE (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

  • Small and medium sized businesses historically tend to suffer disproportionately high occupational fraud losses. Up to one third of all occupational frauds is committed against small and medium sized businesses (the highest rate of any category) and the median loss in those schemes is around $150,000, according to a recent study. One reason that small and medium sized businesses are particularly good targets for occupational fraud is that they tend to have far fewer anti-fraud controls than larger organizations
  • When we look at how small and medium sized businesses detect frauds, it is apparent that they catch a much lower proportion of schemes through tips or internal audits than larger organizations. A relatively large percentage of frauds are caught by accident at small companies — nearly twice as many as at larger organizations. Many of these discrepancies are likely due to the low rates of control implementation at small businesses.
  • Occupational fraud is a global problem. Though it might differ slightly from region to region, most of the trends in fraud schemes, perpetrator characteristics and anti-fraud controls are similar regardless of where the fraud occurred.
  • Fraud reporting mechanisms are a critical component of an effective fraud prevention and detection system. Organizations should implement hotlines to receive tips from both internal and external sources. Such reporting mechanisms should allow anonymity and confidentiality, and employees should be encouraged to report suspicious activity without fear of reprisal.
  • Organizations tend to over-rely on audits. External audits are the control mechanism most widely used by the victims in fraud surveys, but they ranked comparatively poorly in both detecting fraud and limiting losses due to fraud. Audits are clearly important and can have a strong preventative effect on fraudulent behavior, but they should not be relied upon exclusively for fraud detection.
  • Employee education is the foundation of preventing and detecting occupational fraud. Staff members are an organization’s top fraud detection method; employees must be trained in what constitutes fraud, how it hurts everyone in the company and how to report any questionable activity. Our data show not only that most frauds are detected by tips, but also that organizations that have anti-fraud training for employees and managers experience lower fraud losses.
  • Surprise audits are an effective, yet underutilized, tool in the fight against fraud. Less than 30% of victim organizations conduct surprise audits; however, those organizations tend to have lower fraud losses and detect frauds more quickly. While surprise audits can be useful in detecting fraud, their most important benefit is in preventing fraud by creating a perception of detection. Generally speaking, occupational fraud perpetrators only commit fraud if they believe they will not be caught. The threat of surprise audits increases employees’ perception that fraud will be detected and thus has a strong deterrent effect on potential fraudsters.
  • Small businesses are particularly vulnerable to fraud. In general, these organizations have far fewer controls in place to protect their resources from fraud and abuse. Managers and owners of small businesses should focus their control investments on the most cost-effective mechanisms, such as hotlines and setting an ethical tone for their employees, as well as those most likely to help prevent and detect the specific fraud schemes that pose the greatest risks to their businesses.
  • Internal controls alone are insufficient to fully prevent occupational fraud. Though it is important for organizations to have strategic and effective anti-fraud controls in place, internal controls will not prevent all fraud from occurring, nor will they detect most fraud once it begins.
  • Fraudsters exhibit behavioral warning signs of their misdeeds. These red flags — such as living beyond one’s means or exhibiting control issues — will not be identified by traditional controls. Auditors and employees alike should be trained to recognize the common behavioral signs that a fraud is occurring and encouraged not to ignore such red flags, as they might be the key to detecting or deterring a fraud.
  • Given the high costs of occupational fraud, effective fraud prevention measures are critical. Organizations should implement a fraud prevention checklist similar to the one provided below in order to help eliminate fraud before it occurs.

  

FRAUD PREVENTION CHECKLIST


The most cost-effective way to limit fraud losses is to prevent fraud from occurring. This checklist is designed to help organizations test the effectiveness of their fraud prevention measures.

1. Is ongoing anti-fraud training provided to all employees of the organization?
  • Do employees understand what constitutes fraud?
  • Have the costs of fraud to the company and everyone in it — including lost profits, adverse publicity, job loss and decreased morale and productivity — been made clear to employees?
  • Do employees know where to seek advice when faced with uncertain ethical decisions, and do they believe that they can speak freely?
  • Has a policy of zero-tolerance for fraud been communicated to employees through words and actions?
2. Is an effective fraud reporting mechanism in place?
  • Have employees been taught how to communicate concerns about known or potential wrongdoing?
  • Is there an anonymous reporting channel available to employees, such as a third-party hotline?
  • Do employees trust that they can report suspicious activity anonymously and/or confidentially and without fear of reprisal?
  • Has it been made clear to employees that reports of suspicious activity will be promptly and thoroughly evaluated? 
3. To increase employees’ perception of detection, are the following proactive measures taken and publicized to employees?
  • Is possible fraudulent conduct aggressively sought out, rather than dealt with passively?
  • Does the organization send the message that it actively seeks out fraudulent conduct through fraud assessment questioning by auditors?
  • Are surprise fraud audits performed in addition to regularly scheduled fraud audits? 
  • Is continuous auditing software used to detect fraud and, if so, has the use of such software been made known throughout the organization?
4. Is the management climate/tone at the top one of honesty and integrity?
  • Are employees surveyed to determine the extent to which they believe management acts with honesty and integrity? 
  • Are performance goals realistic? 
  • Have fraud prevention goals been incorporated into the performance measures against which managers are evaluated and which are used to determine performance-related compensation?
  • Has the organization established, implemented and tested a process for oversight of fraud risks by the board of directors or others charged with governance (e.g., the audit committee)?
5. Are fraud risk assessments performed to proactively identify and mitigate the company’s vulnerabilities to internal and external fraud?

6. Are strong anti-fraud controls in place and operating effectively, including the following? 
  • Proper separation of duties 
  • Use of authorizations
  • Physical safeguards
  • Job rotations
  • Mandatory vacations

7. Does the internal audit department, if one exists, have adequate resources and authority to operate effectively and without undue influence from senior management?

8. Does the hiring policy include the following?
  • Past employment verification
  • Criminal and civil background checks
  • Credit checks
  • Drug screening
  • Education verification
  • References check
9. Are employee support programs in place to assist employees struggling with addictions, mental/emotional health, family or financial problems?

10. Is an open-door policy in place that allows employees to speak freely about pressures, providing management the opportunity to alleviate such pressures before they become acute?

11. Are anonymous surveys conducted to assess employee morale?

 
 
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