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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. Ah yes... Echoes of 1963 as a ghostly George Wallace makes his stand at the Schoolhouse door. We now know about the stand of personal belief over service to all constituents at the Carter County Clerk door. The results are the same, bigotry unable to follow the directions of the courts and the courts win. Interesting to watch the personal belief take a back seat rather than resign from a perception of local power to make the statement.

  2. An oath of office, does it override the conscience? That is the defense of overall soldier who violates higher laws, isnt it? "I was just following orders" and "I swore an oath of loyalty to der Fuhrer" etc. So this is an interesting case of swearing a false oath and then knowing that it was wrong and doing the right thing. Maybe they should chop her head off too like the "king's good servant-- but God's first" like St Thomas More. ...... We wont hold our breath waiting for the aclu or other "civil liberterians" to come to her defense since they are all arrayed on the gay side, to a man or should I say to a man and womyn?

  3. Perhaps we should also convene a panel of independent anthropological experts to study the issues surrounding this little-known branch of human sacrifice?

  4. I'm going to court the beginning of Oct. 2015 to establish visitation and request my daughters visits while she is in jail. I raised my grandchild for the first two and half years. She was born out of wedlock and the father and his adopted mother wantwd her aborted, they went as far as sueing my daughter for abortion money back 5mo. After my grandchild was born. Now because of depression and drug abuse my daughter lost custody 2 and a half years ago. Everyting went wrong in court when i went for custody my lawyer was thrown out and a replacment could only stay 45 min. The judge would not allow a postponement. So the father won. Now he is aleinating me and my daughter. No matter the amount of time spent getting help for my daughter and her doing better he runs her in the ground to the point of suicide because he wants her to be in a relationship with him. It is a sick game of using my grandchild as a pawn to make my daughter suffer for not wanting to be with him. I became the intervener in the case when my daughter first got into trouble. Because of this they gave me her visitation. Im hoping to get it again there is questions of abuse on his part and I want to make sure my grandchild is doing alright. I really dont understand how the parents have rights to walk in and do whatever they want when the refuse to stand up and raise the child at first . Why should it take two and a half years to decide you want to raise your child.The father used me so he could finish college get a job and stop paying support by getting custody. Support he was paying my daughter that I never saw.

  5. Pence said when he ordered the investigation that Indiana residents should be troubled by the allegations after the video went viral. Planned Parenthood has asked the government s top health scientists at the National Institutes of Health to convene a panel of independent experts to study the issues surrounding the little-known branch of medicine.

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