Financial fraud and theft have become a significant threat to businesses around the world, and the losses continue to grow, according to the 2014 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse (A Global Fraud Study) by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE).
The typical organization loses 5 percent of its revenues each year to fraud, according to the report, and nearly a quarter of all cases involved losses of at least $1 million. Perhaps not surprisingly, the banking and financial services industry (in addition to manufacturing, government and public administration) leads the way with the greatest number of reported occupational fraud cases.
While no business is completely immune to the threat of fraud, it is possible to significantly reduce damages by being proactive in your anti-fraud efforts. Consider these important tips to protect against common forms of fraud in the workplace.
Make your employee your first line of defense. Hold regular on and offline security training sessions for all your employees, from the newest to the most veteran. Help enforce what they learn by enacting policies that promote the proper use of your company’s confidential information such as financial data, as well as personnel and customer information.
Make It Easy for Employees to Report Fraud
Tips are the most common way that occupational fraud schemes are detected, accounting for more than 40 percent of all initial fraud revelations, according to the ACFE’s 2014 global report. Ranking a distant second and third were management review (16 percent) and internal audit (14 percent), respectively. It’s crucial to create an office culture in which employees are encouraged to report suspicious activity (especially involving their supervisors, since perpetrators with higher levels of authority cause much larger losses according to ACFE) without fear of retribution.
Be Aware of Behavioral Red Flags
The vast majority of occupational fraudsters (84 percent according to the ACFE) are first-time offenders with clean employment histories. Fortunately, there are some red flags alerting you to potential problems. Does one of your employees appear to be living beyond his means? Is someone experiencing financial difficulties? Have you noticed a staff member who seems to have an unusually close relationship with a vendor or customer? These are the most common warning signs that can tip you off to fraudulent conduct.
Guard All Accounting Documents
One of the easiest steps to take to prevent occupational fraud is to make sure all of your financial documents — check stock, signature equipment, invoices, bill paperwork — are always secured. Likewise, be sure to use a secured mailbox for sending and receiving bills. Always restrict the use of the company credit card to employees or companies you know and trust.
Keep an Eye on Your Employees and Visitors
Offices can be busy places with vendors, contractors, delivery people and employees moving in and out throughout the day. Be vigilant by tracking the movements of all visitors and being on the lookout for suspicious activity.
Instances of fraud last a median of 18 months before being detected, according to the ACFE. Don’t be a victim. For more information about cybersecurity and steps you can take to protect against fraud, visit our Education Center.