Fraud is a shockingly common problem for businesses. According to a 2012 study performed by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), the average business loses approximately 5% of its gross revenue to fraud schemes each year. Business owners would be wise to realize that financial fraud may be happening right now in their company, perhaps even perpetrated by their most trusted employee. Potential fraudsters are often people of good character who are experiencing intense financial pressure. They are usually aware of the threshold amounts that require higher level approval for fund disbursement, and are cognizant as well of the amounts that internal and external auditors are likely to flag for review. Thus, they are confident that their fraud will go undetected. What’s a business owner to do? The first step is to be aware of the most common fraud crimes. They include:
- Billing Fraud – creating false vendors, submitting personal invoices for payment
- Check tampering- stealing blank checks or diverting checks to a personal account
- Skimming- accepting payments from a customer and failing to report them
The next step is to perform a risk assessment. This involves a review of current internal controls and the ranking of potential vulnerabilities to fraud. These vulnerabilities should be addressed by eliminating the temptation and opportunity for fraud, as well as ensuring prompt detection of fraud, should it occur. The changes made should be revisited on an ongoing basis and reassessed for effectiveness.
Factors that can further enhance fraud prevention include stricter due diligence and control procedures. Business owners should be aware that their conduct plays an important role as well, setting the “tone at the top”. Creating a strict code of conduct that is adhered to by all establishes a low-tolerance atmosphere that keeps fraudsters at bay. Setting up a whistleblower telephone hotline is another prevention practice worth considering.
If fraud is detected, it is essential to seek assistance of an experienced fraud investigator. The expert may choose to conduct the investigation with oversight from general counsel or outside attorneys.
Urbach & Avraham specializes in risk assesment. Our fraud team, which includes several Certified Fraud Examiners, is ready to help you prevent and identify fraud in your business. Contact us today for a free consultation to assess your company’s needs.