Fraud Knowledge & Prevention
Jan 16, 2014
With so many fraud cases in the spotlight recently it’s hard to figure out how to protect yourself. There have been many cases of credit card fraud, employee embezzlement, money laundering and so much more. With companies losing astronomical sums to fraud every year this begs the question: what steps are being taken to prevent fraud in the future and learn from past mistakes?
Top in the news lately is the recent identity theft at Target. It has not yet been released exactly how this theft occurred but, generally, thieves are able to hack into a company’s databases and steal the information transmitted from a credit card’s metal strip when swiped on a card reader. Because of this, millions and millions of people are put on alert every year that their credit and debit card accounts have been compromised.
Another large fraud area is financial statement fraud; the examples that people first relate to are usually Enron and WorldCom. This fraud is often hard to detect because it is usually perpetrated by the company’s’ executives in an effort to report a better financial position than actually exists. This type of fraud is usually meant to deceive stockholders, owners, investors, banks, etc.
Small-scale fraud is most typically dealt with in companies. For instance, maybe “borrowing” $100 out of the petty cash drawer and paying it back on pay-day. Or maybe even forging an invoice so that the employee can collect the extra payment. There are several different ways that employees can embezzle money from their employers and thieves are getting more and more creative. Small-scale fraud like this is most often caught by the employer themselves so managers and supervisors need to be vigilant in taking note of this happening and ensuring that a swift punishment is delivered.
What steps are in place to avoid these frauds happening in the future? Credit card information theft is on a steep decline in Europe. Why? Because they have shied away from using metals strips in credit and debit cards and have, instead, an electronic chip embedded into them. The current stripe technology used in the United States is outdated; it remits the same information at the point of sale every time the card is swiped. The chip is state of the art and every time the card is swiped information is encrypted and as a result the information remitted is constantly changing. Fear not, chip technology is coming! The US will soon be adopting the chip technology and has a 2015 implementation deadline.
As a result of the large financial statement frauds committed in the past, financial reporting is much more regulated. Transparency is the name of the game and auditors are now required to do much further testing and disclose much more than they were pre-Enron.
Simple checks and balances and a segregation of duties is the most effective way of preventing and detecting small-scale fraud. Think about it, it’s much easier form someone to steal money from a company if they process invoices, approval invoices, and write checks vs. a different people being responsible for each job. In some companies it may not make financial sense to separate these positions (the company may be too small) so companies should do a cost/benefit analysis to determine their best practices.
Our firm also offers a FREE service to our clients called End Fraud Now. This service provides an anonymous and confidential way for employees and other business partners to report internal theft, bribery, harassment, and other illegal activities that could cause a loss to your company or subject it to legal exposure. Check out the website today!
The moral of the story is that fraud is out there and everyone needs to not only be aware of it but actively preventing it. The government is stepping in and putting safeguards in place but that doesn’t mean that businesses shouldn’t be doing things independent of this. Putting a small amount of internal controls in place will save a company future time, energy, and money.
Courtney Elgin, CPA