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Fraud Prevention Tip #50: The Three Key Components of an Anti-Fraud Program

Fraud Prevention Tip #50: The Three Key Components of an Anti-Fraud Program

Somewhere out there, your organization is probably being targeted for fraud right now. Internet-based hackers, international organized crime organizations, and even a small percentage of employees all see your assets and information as too tempting to ignore.

But what are the three most important things you must do to deter these barbarians at the gate – or already inside your business?

Fraud Prevention Tip #50: The Three Key Components of an Anti-Fraud Program

How to Prevent Business Fraud: 8 Ideas That Work

The goals of anti-fraud efforts are prevention and immediate detection. While no anti-fraud system is foolproof, the 8 ideas in this program are critical to managing fraud risks in your business. And there is a cumulative effect – the more of them you apply in your business, the greater the chance of success. Providing turn-by-turn instructions for business leaders and owners, this program is short on theory and long on practical ‘how-to’ instructions on what you should do and what gets in the way. You’ll benefit by building a stronger defense against the risks of wrongdoing, misconduct, theft and outright fraud. Using the tools, checklists, talking points, and sample anti-fraud policies included in the program, you’ll be able to apply the ideas right away with minimal cost and maximum effect.

Managing business fraud risks requires your daily attention. It’s a ‘cat and mouse’ endeavor where the smarter we get, the harder they have to work to get us. While there are many prevention and deterrence steps you can take, here are three critical components of any business anti-fraud program.

1. Build a culture of honesty within your organization.

Ethics starts and ends with the actions of leaders. From the boardroom to the factory floor, every leader must not only talk, they must demonstrate exactly what ethical behavior looks like in their business habits. And the CEO must personally lead the pack.

Formalize the rules of acceptable behavior in a Code of Conduct. Be clear about what is not allowed as well. Address confidentiality, harassment, use and protection of intellectual property, avoiding conflicts of interest, and other ethical issues. Tell people what you expect of them. Be clear about relationships with third-party suppliers, customers and contractors.

2. Perform a meaningful fraud risk assessment, and brainstorm how to mitigate fraud risks.

Fraud risk assessment starts with an open discussion of what can go wrong. Bring it out into the open. Recruit every employee into the brainstorming process. Address theft, manipulated financial and operating results, and shadow deals with third parties.

Make sure every employee knows what can go wrong in their areas of responsibility, and tell them it’s their job to make sure fraud doesn’t happen on their watch. Help them implement or strengthen anti-fraud controls. Openly recognize their positive deterrence behavior.

3. Provide useful anti-fraud skills training.

Creating a culture of honesty and ethics is step one; step two is fraud risk brainstorming. But none of it matters without useful anti-fraud skills training.

Many organizations speak to their staff about fraud awareness. But if you are expecting them to fight fraud, you have to go much further and show them exactly what fraud looks like in the transaction records they see every day. There’s simply no short cut to meeting this essential need. Yet this is the one step that most business organizations skip.

Provide anti-fraud skills training in a classroom setting, in small staff meeting discussions, in organization newsletter articles, and using webinar, conference call and other simple technology (Skype, Apple FaceTime and others). Most effective of all but often overlooked is one-on-one coaching of staff by supervisors at every level.

Don’t keep fraud examples hidden from your team; bring what can go wrong out into the light where all can learn and react appropriately. Help them be successful in meeting your fraud risk management objectives. Encourage them to speak up and make it as safe as possible to report suspicions.

If you have questions about what you should do to fight fraud exposures in your organization, just let me know and we’ll talk it through.

Call me at (970) 926-0355. Or email John@JohnHallSpeaker.com and we’ll get the discussion started.

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 38-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”

 

 

Fraud Prevention Tip #48: Suggestions for Small Businesses, Small Government and Not-for-Profits

Fraud Prevention Tip #48: Suggestions for Small Businesses, Small Government and Not-for-Profits

The Anti-Fraud Toolkit

The Anti-Fraud Toolkit Structure
In 9 modules, more than 6 hours of recorded video lecture, over 250 PowerPoint slides, and many practice ‘To-Do’ action items and practice tools (downloadable in each module), you’ll get the step-by-step, turn-by-turn instructions you need to take action right now. Short on theory and long on action steps, the lectures and tools in each module will enable you to take confident, effective action by building on the successes I’ve witnessed in my clients all of these years.
You’ll also get guidance on what not to do in the fight against fraud – to help you avoid common mistakes, focus your precious limited energy, and avoid undermining your own efforts through inefficiency and uncertainly!

Most smaller businesses, local governmental entities, and not-for-profits face the inherent risk of insufficient staff and limited control resources. These special challenges require extra effort by anti-fraud leaders. Here are seven ideas that will help.

  • Create a written Code of Conduct that addresses routine and non-routine situations staff will encounter in performing their work. Provide examples, short cases and answers to Frequently Asked Questions. Be wary of boilerplate terminology. Focus instead on meaningful real-world guidance for conduct.
  • Due to limitations in staffing and inadequate segregation of duties controls, managers should compensate by spot checking and re-performing the work of subordinates. Make this ‘quality check’ a daily habit.
  • Require that approvers carefully review all disbursement documentation prior to approval. Verify details, ask questions, and when in doubt, choose to follow up until a valid verifiable conclusion is reached.
  • Have organization bank account and credit card statements sent unopened directly to the chief executive. This executive should review all statements in detail as soon as they are received.
  • Verify the existence and legitimacy of all first-time payment recipients.
  • Make everyone take uninterrupted vacations or other time away from their jobs. Have other staff fill in for them and complete their work while they are away. This practice builds skills and acts as a deterrent to wrongdoing.
  • You simply must perform meaningful criminal background checks on employees and higher-risk volunteers. There’s no easy way around this one. Those terminated for cheating at prior employers know they need a new job right now. No delay. And prime targets for new jobs for these folks are the smaller business, governmental entity or not-for-profit that everyone knows has limited resources and staff to check backgrounds.

Comply with the privacy, anti-discrimination and other applicable laws. Beware of blanket policies that prevent hiring those with prior criminal records. Get competent legal advice and find a way to get these reviews done

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 38-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”

 

 

preparation for fraud incident

Fraud Prevention Tip #43: Build The Response Team Before It’s Needed

Near our home, there’s a city firehouse. Inside 24 hours a day are trained professionals ready to go when the alarm sounds. Their equipment is maintained in outstanding condition, their trucks are fueled, and their protective jackets, boots and helmets are already in place. They don’t wait for the alarm to go off before thinking through what they might need, recruiting their staff, buying equipment and getting their training. That’s already done.

That’s exactly the way you should look at you ability to respond to fraud incidents. Evaluate your fraud response needs during periods of calm. Not crisis.

Gaps in capabilities should be addressed before a fraud incident is being pursued.

As part of fraud risk brainstorming, think through what skills might be needed later if identified risks become reality. In many organizations, these skills do not necessarily need to be available in-house. But you should know exactly who to call if you need them in a hurry. Assess internal capabilities. Build relationships with outsiders before they are needed.

Here is a list of good places to start.

Legal Oversight

At the center of the response team are lawyers skilled in criminal matters. These attorneys should be able to provide quick response guidance to members of the investigative team. They should be available when needed, and provide oversight of the investigative process. Consider other legal needs that may arise, such as employment law, government contracting, procurement, international commerce, real estate, technology, intellectual property, and environmental law.

Investigators, Fraud Examiners, and Forensic Accountants

This group will comprise the core investigative team. While the roles of the three groups mentioned in the title above are similar, the specific subspecialties of each are important to have available. These skills may all be found in one person, or we may need multiple experts to fill the investigative needs.

Certified Fraud Examiners

While there are many sources of help, many Certified Fraud Examiners (Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Austin, TX www.acfe.com) are experts in fraud issues and can bring first-hand experience to your fraud incidents. In many organizations, CFEs are an integral part of the investigative team.

Internal Auditors

If your organization has a formal internal audit function, this resource should be utilized in pursuing reported suspicions. Internal auditors have the capability to review issues from the inside: that is, they can often pull data, double check facts and interview employees quietly. This allows the organization to take initial steps in the incident response process without attracting a lot of attention.

Experienced internal auditors have expertise in internal controls as a core skill. They should be an active part of efforts to identify fraud risks and assess the adequacy of prevention and detection controls. Using auditing analytical procedures and tools (including computer-assisted audit techniques), internal audit can also surface fraud indicators for further investigation. Last, they are a critical resource to management in efforts to strengthen controls after a fraud incident has surfaced.

Information Technology and Computer Forensics

Few business fraud cases fail to touch on electronic records. Information technology expertise is needed to assess the risks to these records and to assist in the collection of necessary data stored in electronic form.

Computer forensics expertise is often necessary to preserve data that will be used as evidence in legal proceedings. Qualified experts in these fields should be formally on call if not on staff. These skills should be found before you need them, as response time to collect and protect critical data may be very short.

Human Resources

The response team should include human resources specialists with fraud background. Fraud involves people, and often those people are employees.

Rights and obligations need to be honored. Laws and employment contracts must be respected. Decisions must be adequately and appropriately documented. Mistakes must be avoided. The qualified HR representative can assist in all of these concerns, and should be a core member of the response team.

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 35-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”

 

 

Approving Purchasing Card Transactions

Fraud Prevention Tip #38: Approving Purchasing Card Transactions – Good Questions to Ask

The use of Purchasing cards or P-Cards for small dollar transactions makes a lot of sense. The cost per transaction is significantly less than that incurred when a requisition, purchase order, invoice and check payment takes place. But with the convenience of P-Cards comes an elevated risk of abuse and fraud.

Compounding the risk is the fact that many organizations train employees in the proper use of P-Cards, but very few teach new supervisors how to review this activity. The flawed belief is that if you know the rules of using P-Cards, then of course you know how to review transactions submitted by subordinates.

Here is a long list of example questions to ask yourself when reviewing P-Card transactions. Create a shorter list that better reflects your business culture and exposures, and keep it handy the next time you review these purchases. Share your list with others in your work group or in an article for all employees.

1. What is the business purpose of the charge? Is it reasonable for the person making the claim?
2. Are original receipts or other support attached for every item claimed (as required by policy)?
3. Is the expense allowable under organization policies?
4. Are the costs claimed ‘reasonable’ considering organization culture, policy, locations?
5. Does the receipt show the name, address and phone number of the vendor?
6. Were any costs split to avoid the allowable maximum?
7. Would this type of purchase normally require the issuance of a Purchase Order?
8. Could the item purchased be used in the home? If so, verify location of item.
9. Was the purchase date or time unusual – for example weekends, evenings or just prior to a holiday?
10. Was the quantity purchased reasonable?
11. Was the item returned for store credit?
12. Is P-Card spending in line with supervisor expectations and budget?
13. Does the purchase location make sense?
14. Where appropriate, verify that the place of business actually exists (for example, call the phone number printed on the receipt or search for their website).
15. If the charge is unfamiliar, consider entering SKU codes from receipts into the website of the vendor (for example, Home Depot.com).
16. For fuel purchases, review total charges over a period of several weeks or months. Compare to vehicle mileage.
17. Find what was purchased. Verify existence and business purpose.
18. When month-end control reports are received, perform a one-to-one match of every item on the control report back to original receipts.

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 35-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”

 

 

Fraud Prevention Tip #25: Resolve or Refer Suspicions

Fraud Prevention Tip #25: Resolve or Refer Suspicions

So there you are, an entry-level staff accountant. Just six months with the company.

You’ve attended the required ethics, Code of Conduct, and anti-fraud training programs. At the fraud training, you made a list of example red flags, indicators and symptoms of wrongdoing and fraud that you might see in your daily work. Just like the instructor told you to do.

Since then, you have paid attention. You have ‘doubted’ rather than ‘believed’ when something didn’t look right to you. But everything always checked out, and a few times your supervisor asked you if maybe you weren’t overreacting.

Right now you’re staring at a contractor invoice in the middle of your desk. You think it’s wrong, and likely a sign that the contractor is trying to rip-off your company. But you’re not 100% sure. Maybe not even 20%.

What would you do? What should you do?

This is the all-important moment of truth. What I refer to during my live training seminars as The Anti-Fraud Moment. This is the moment where you have a document in front of you, a pen in your hand or fingers on the keyboard, and if you approve what you see it moves through the process and gets paid.

But it looks funny to you. You think you should raise the alarm, but worry about being wrong and offending a trusted business partner.

At this moment, every employee must know exactly what to do and what to avoid. Here’s what they need – and it’s up to Anti-Fraud Leaders to make sure it happens:

1. Clear instructions on how far they should go on their own to resolve their doubts.
2. Clear instructions on when to ask for help.
3. Clear instructions on who to ask for help.
4. Clear instructions on how to ask for help – especially if they prefer to remain anonymous.
5. A fact-based belief that they are never alone at these moments of doubt. That they are heroes – not whistle-blowers. No one wants to be a whistle-blower. Everyone wants to believe that they will do the right thing at the moment of doubt. Just like any hero.

Make it easy for people to report suspicions. Treat them with respect when they come forward. Congratulate them and say thank you.

Our front-line employees are our first and often last line of defense against fraud. Help them deliver on what we need them to do when they see something odd. Tell them when and how to refer their suspicions.

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA

John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 35-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”

 

 

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