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BGBC Partners: Fraud can happen anywhere without prevention measures

July 4, 2012
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Indiana Lawyer Commentary

By Howard I Gross, Steven W. Reed and Casey L. Higgs

A typical organization loses 5 percent of its annual revenue to fraud.

When a business owner or adviser ponders this finding from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) 2012 Report to the Nations, one has to consider their own susceptibility to fraud. Initially, you convince yourself that you have a low risk for fraud because you operate a small business, employ trusted people (and know what they are doing) or the business has been operating for years. You believe “it can’t happen to me.”

You are wrong.

Small businesses historically have suffered disproportionately larger losses due to fraud than larger organizations. According to the 2012 ACFE report, the smallest organizations suffered the largest median losses. Further, nearly half of the victim organizations do not recover any of the fraud losses.

Billing and check tampering are the most common fraud schemes reported by the entities. A single individual in a smaller entity, such as the bookkeeper, many times performs the check writing and cash collection processes. Within larger entities, these duties are segregated, with a formal approval and authorization process in place. Small organizations typically lack the appropriate anti-fraud measures which leaves them especially vulnerable.

The likelihood of successful fraud prevention and detection at smaller organizations is relatively low due to:

The organization’s accounting firm performs a compilation or review and not a financial statement audit;

The belief that a fraud risk-management program is costly to implement;

The belief that a substantial increase in resources is necessary to deploy proper internal controls; and

Employees are family and/or close friends and there exists a relationship of trust.

An organization that receives a compilation or review and not an audit of the financial statements does not reap the benefits of having its operational processes and internal controls analyzed by auditors. Auditing standards require auditors to consider the risk of fraud when planning and performing audits, but this is not required in a compilation or review. While audits are beneficial for assessing internal controls, the ACFE report stresses that external audits should not be relied upon as a business’s primary fraud-detection method. In the survey, audits only detected 3 percent of the frauds and ranked poorly in limiting losses.

Small businesses can implement cost- effective control measures such as:

Employee education and fraud awareness

Simple segregation of duties

Job rotation and mandatory vacation

A company code of conduct

Tip hotline

Management review

According to the ACFE report, hotlines are consistently the most effective fraud-detection method, but only 15 percent of small businesses have a hotline in place. Enacting hotlines, as well as all of the other inexpensive anti-fraud measures discussed above, can help business owners prevent fraud.

The belief that more resources are required to develop and implement proper internal control procedures also is misleading. An organization does not necessarily need to hire additional resources. A shift in roles, fraud training, and a proper segregation of duties can occur in organizations as small as three employees.

Lastly, businesses often employ family members and close friends, and there exists a relationship of trust. These businesses generally have very few controls in place, if any at all, because they rely on and trust those individuals. We recently encountered a fraud of this kind. A veteran employee of a small professional practice who was a longtime family friend allegedly misappropriated more than $100,000 in cash receipts over the course of four years. This particular employee was trusted by the owners and the perpetrator’s duties were not questioned nor were there proper controls in place to prevent or detect the ongoing fraud. Further, this person, like 87 percent of all perpetrators, was a first-time offender with a clean employment history.

The presence of anti-fraud controls significantly decreases the cost and duration of fraud schemes. According the ACFE report, organizations that had implemented any of the most common anti-fraud controls experienced lower losses and a shorter time to detection than organizations without controls.

Fraud can happen, especially in small businesses. The risk of fraud affecting your client increases without proper anti-fraud measures and controls. The first step of successful fraud prevention and detection is to acknowledge and be aware that fraud can occur. A seasoned forensic team can assist in evaluating your situation before it is too late.•

__________

Howard I Gross, CPA/ABV/CFF, CFP; Steven W. Reed, CPA/ABV; and Casey L. Higgs, CPA/CFF, CFE, CVA are with BGBC Partners, LLP – Litigation, Forensic and Business Valuation. Contact BGBC at 317-633-4700 or visit www.bgbc.com. The opinions expressed are those of the authors.

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  1. I like the concept. Seems like a good idea and really inexpensive to manage.

  2. I don't agree that this is an extreme case. There are more of these people than you realize - people that are vindictive and/or with psychological issues have clogged the system with baseless suits that are costly to the defendant and to taxpayers. Restricting repeat offenders from further abusing the system is not akin to restricting their freedon, but to protecting their victims, and the court system, from allowing them unfettered access. From the Supreme Court opinion "he has burdened the opposing party and the courts of this state at every level with massive, confusing, disorganized, defective, repetitive, and often meritless filings."

  3. So, if you cry wolf one too many times courts may "restrict" your ability to pursue legal action? Also, why is document production equated with wealth? Anyone can "produce probably tens of thousands of pages of filings" if they have a public library card. I understand this is an extreme case, but our Supreme Court really got this one wrong.

  4. He called our nation a nation of cowards because we didn't want to talk about race. That was a cheap shot coming from the top cop. The man who decides who gets the federal government indicts. Wow. Not a gentleman if that is the measure. More importantly, this insult delivered as we all understand, to white people-- without him or anybody needing to explain that is precisely what he meant-- but this is an insult to timid white persons who fear the government and don't want to say anything about race for fear of being accused a racist. With all the legal heat that can come down on somebody if they say something which can be construed by a prosecutor like Mr Holder as racist, is it any wonder white people-- that's who he meant obviously-- is there any surprise that white people don't want to talk about race? And as lawyers we have even less freedom lest our remarks be considered violations of the rules. Mr Holder also demonstrated his bias by publically visiting with the family of the young man who was killed by a police offering in the line of duty, which was a very strong indicator of bias agains the offer who is under investigation, and was a failure to lead properly by letting his investigators do their job without him predetermining the proper outcome. He also has potentially biased the jury pool. All in all this worsens race relations by feeding into the perception shared by whites as well as blacks that justice will not be impartial. I will say this much, I do not blame Obama for all of HOlder's missteps. Obama has done a lot of things to stay above the fray and try and be a leader for all Americans. Maybe he should have reigned Holder in some but Obama's got his hands full with other problelms. Oh did I mention HOlder is a bank crony who will probably get a job in a silkstocking law firm working for millions of bucks a year defending bankers whom he didn't have the integrity or courage to hold to account for their acts of fraud on the United States, other financial institutions, and the people. His tenure will be regarded by history as a failure of leadership at one of the most important jobs in our nation. Finally and most importantly besides him insulting the public and letting off the big financial cheats, he has been at the forefront of over-prosecuting the secrecy laws to punish whistleblowers and chill free speech. What has Holder done to vindicate the rights of privacy of the American public against the illegal snooping of the NSA? He could have charged NSA personnel with violations of law for their warrantless wiretapping which has been done millions of times and instead he did not persecute a single soul. That is a defalcation of historical proportions and it signals to the public that the government DOJ under him was not willing to do a damn thing to protect the public against the rapid growth of the illegal surveillance state. Who else could have done this? Nobody. And for that omission Obama deserves the blame too. Here were are sliding into a police state and Eric Holder made it go all the faster.

  5. JOE CLAYPOOL candidate for Superior Court in Harrison County - Indiana This candidate is misleading voters to think he is a Judge by putting Elect Judge Joe Claypool on his campaign literature. paragraphs 2 and 9 below clearly indicate this injustice to voting public to gain employment. What can we do? Indiana Code - Section 35-43-5-3: Deception (a) A person who: (1) being an officer, manager, or other person participating in the direction of a credit institution, knowingly or intentionally receives or permits the receipt of a deposit or other investment, knowing that the institution is insolvent; (2) knowingly or intentionally makes a false or misleading written statement with intent to obtain property, employment, or an educational opportunity; (3) misapplies entrusted property, property of a governmental entity, or property of a credit institution in a manner that the person knows is unlawful or that the person knows involves substantial risk of loss or detriment to either the owner of the property or to a person for whose benefit the property was entrusted; (4) knowingly or intentionally, in the regular course of business, either: (A) uses or possesses for use a false weight or measure or other device for falsely determining or recording the quality or quantity of any commodity; or (B) sells, offers, or displays for sale or delivers less than the represented quality or quantity of any commodity; (5) with intent to defraud another person furnishing electricity, gas, water, telecommunication, or any other utility service, avoids a lawful charge for that service by scheme or device or by tampering with facilities or equipment of the person furnishing the service; (6) with intent to defraud, misrepresents the identity of the person or another person or the identity or quality of property; (7) with intent to defraud an owner of a coin machine, deposits a slug in that machine; (8) with intent to enable the person or another person to deposit a slug in a coin machine, makes, possesses, or disposes of a slug; (9) disseminates to the public an advertisement that the person knows is false, misleading, or deceptive, with intent to promote the purchase or sale of property or the acceptance of employment;

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