COVID-Related Fraud Risk on the Rise
Feb 19, 2021
Many small business owners do not believe their businesses can or will fall victim to occupational fraud. Due to this belief and budget restrictions, many small businesses do not make this a priority, which leaves them vulnerable.
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ 2020 Report, financial statement fraud is the costliest type of occupational fraud affecting organizations. Financial statement fraud is not only costly from a fiscal standpoint, but it also impacts trust within the organization, the community, and with investors.
The rapid advance of COVID-19 has placed a significant strain on organizations and individuals alike. Donald R. Cressey’s fraud triangle theory includes the three major factors that are commonly present when financial statement fraud occurs: Pressure, Opportunity, and Rationalization.
Here is how COVID-19 has impacted these factors:
Pressure – Organizations are facing challenges never experienced before. COVID-19 has left many facing revenue loss, supply chain disruptions, and employee wellness concerns. All these factors, and more, are causing undue pressure to meet financial expectations.
Opportunity – While organizations are receiving state and federal funding to cope with the financial impact of COVID-19 disruption, there are dramatic shifts in operations with remote working and a reduction of in-office staff. This means internal controls are reduced and accessibility increased. These become prime opportunities for fraud.
Rationalization – Mounting stress impacts individual decision-making skills, leading people to rationalize actions they would otherwise regard unacceptable or illegal. Employees may rationalize they are “owed” financial support because of the work they do.
Some potential areas to consider when thinking about your organization include:
- Revenue recognition – The timing and amount of revenues recognized.
- Allowances and reserves – Changes in methodology and unusual adjustments.
- Valuations – Significant estimates used in projections, declining cash flows, and idle assets.
- Treatment of expenses – Expenses are recorded in the proper period.
- Disclosures – The adequacy and sufficiency of disclosures.
- Margins – Reasonableness of margins given the current year operations.
- Internal control – Opportunity for control override.
These are just a few of the common ways for financial statement fraud to occur. While we all work diligently to recover from the COVID-19 disruption, we need to be aware of the heightened risks and adjust our processes and tasks to monitor for this risk.
If your company needs assistance, William Vaughan is here to assist you.
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Juli Seiwert, CPA
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