2019 Fraud Week Wrap-Up

By Lowers & Associates,

We were proud to join the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) 2019 Fraud Awareness Week as an official supporter. Saturday, November 23, 2019 will conclude a weeklong effort by the ACFE to minimize the impact of fraud by promoting anti-fraud awareness and education.

Companies lose an estimated 5% of their revenue annually as a result of occupational fraud, according to the 2018 ACFE Report to the Nations. It turns out, the risk of occupational fraud is much higher than many managers and leaders realize. Each case results in a median loss of $130,000 and with cases lasting a median of 16 months, fraud is something organizations of all sizes must take care to detect and deter.

In support of Fraud Week, we produced several informational articles, which are summarized here for easy reference:

2019 Fraud Week Series: How Technology is Helping in the Fight Against Fraud

How Technology is Helping in the Fight Against Fraud

The key to catching fraudulent actions before real damage is done is having systems in place to ferret out anomalies and report suspicious activities early. This means being equipped with tools like automatic monitoring, artificial intelligence, and anomaly detection protocols. For instance, surprise audits and data monitoring are a powerful combination in reducing fraud loss. Though only 37% of the companies examined in the ACFE  study used them, those that did got fraud cases under control in approximately half the time and reduced fraud losses by more than 50%.

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The ACFE’s 5 Big Fraud Tips You Should Act on Now

The ACFE’s 5 Big Fraud Tips You Should Act on Now

As part of the 2019 International Fraud Awareness Week, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) distributes information and training to help anti-fraud professionals reduce the incidence of fraud and white-collar crime. A recent ACFE publication, 5 Fraud Tips Every Business Leader Should Act On, spells out five ways organizations can work to prevent and minimize fraud in the workplace. We’ve paired their recommendations with the research-based actions you can take to achieve these aims.

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Recovering Fraud Losses: What the Numbers Reveal

Recovering Fraud Losses: What the Numbers Reveal

Losses from occupational fraud topped $7 billion in 2017, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) most recent global study on occupational fraud and abuse, 2018 Report to the Nations. The median loss for all cases in the study was $130,000 USD, yet a full 22 percent of companies lost $1 million or more. To add insult to injury, only 15 percent of businesses that experienced fraud were able to fully recover their losses.

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7 Must-Haves for Occupational Fraud Prevention

7 Must-Haves for Occupational Fraud Prevention

These seven fraud prevention strategies, drawn from the 2018 Report to the Nations by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), will go a long way in fortifying your organization against the conditions that can facilitate occupational fraud at the workplace.

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We hope you have taken some time this week to think about your 2020 fraud prevention programs and strategies and how you’ll build early fraud detection and proactive prevention into your processes.

No company is immune to fraud.

Recovering Fraud Losses: What the Numbers Reveal

By Lowers & Associates,

Recovering Fraud Losses: What the Numbers Reveal

Losses from occupational fraud topped $7 billion in 2017, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ (ACFE) most recent global study on occupational fraud and abuse, 2018 Report to the Nations. The median loss for all cases in the study was $130,000 USD, yet a full 22 percent of companies lost $1 million or more. To add insult to injury, only 15 percent of businesses that experienced fraud were able to fully recover their losses.

Recovering Fraud Losses: What the Numbers Reveal

The common theme in the report is that, while it’s often worthwhile to pursue remedial action against perpetrators, victims will usually not be made whole. Here are three factors negatively impacting these recuperation efforts.

1. Failure to Report

After a fraud has been discovered and investigated, a case might proceed to prosecution, civil litigation, both, or neither. In its annual study, ACFE researchers tracked the percent of cases that were referred to law enforcement or resulted in a civil suit being filed for each year dating back to 2008. They found that the rate of criminal referrals has been gradually decreasing over that time, from 69 percent in 2008 to 58 percent in 2018. In contrast, the rate at which civil suits are filed has stayed consistent, ranging from 22 percent to 24 percent within the same timeframe.

There are many reasons why victim organizations might decide not to refer cases to law enforcement and therefore forego any additional recuperation of the loss that may result. The top five cited reasons are:

  1. Fear of bad publicity: 38%
  2. Internal discipline sufficient: 33%
  3. Too costly: 24%
  4. Private settlement: 21%
  5. Lack of evidence: 12%

2. The Greater the Loss, the Less Likely the Recovery

There is an inverse relationship between the amount that victim organizations lose to fraud versus what they are able to recover. So, even if the organization decides to pursue legal action, they are not likely to achieve full recovery. Here’s how the numbers panned out:

  • Losses of $10,000 or less had a 30% chance of recovery
  • Losses of $10,000 to $100,000 had a 16% chance of recovery
  • Losses of $100,001 to $1,000,000 had a 14% chance of recovery
  • Losses of $1,000,000 or more had an 8% chance of recovery

3. Desire to Avoid Fines

A third reason recovery efforts can be hampered is the knowledge that organizations may receive monetary fines from authorities for having inadequate controls in place and thus enabling fraud to occur.

Of the three types of occupational fraud – asset misappropriation, corruption, and financial statement fraud – the latter had the greatest likelihood of fines, at 17 percent. And, fines were imposed regardless of the size of the loss. For example, organizations that lost $10,000 or less were fined 14 percent of the time while those that lost $1,000,000 or more were fined 20% of the time.

At a median of $100,000 per fine, these penalties were no small matter.

An Ounce of Prevention

Given that recovery is an uphill battle, the takeaway is this: organizations should do what they can to prevent fraud from happening in the first place. Internal controls, codes of ethics, recognizing red flag behaviors, and the availability of reporting mechanisms are all tried-and-true methods for realizing that goal.

2019 Fraud Week Series: How Technology is Helping in the Fight Against Fraud

By Lowers & Associates,

2019 Fraud Week Series: How Technology is Helping in the Fight Against Fraud

This week is the 2019 International Fraud Awareness Week, an initiative of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) to encourage business leaders and employees to prevent and minimize the impact of fraud in the workplace.

Occupational fraud, that is fraud committed by employees against employers, resulted in $7 billion in losses in 2017, according to the ACFE’s 2018 Report to the Nations. In studying nearly 3,000 incidents of fraud across 125 nations, they found cases ranging from computer theft to check tampering to corruption. Individual losses varied, with 55% of losses being $200,000 or less and 22% of cases being $1 million or more.

Through educational videos, workplace training, and awareness efforts, Fraud Awareness Week aims to arm workplaces with technologies and resources to prevent, identify, and effectively address these types of fraudulent activities.

A Snapshot of Occupational Fraud

Types of Fraud: Fraudulent activities fall into one of three categories: asset misappropriation; corruption; and financial statement fraud. Representing 89 percent of cases, asset misappropriation (e.g., altering checks or payments, misusing organizational resources) are the most common, with a median per-loss cost of $114,000, according to the report. Financial statement fraud, however, while more infrequent, led to much greater median losses at $800,000 per event.

Fraudster Profiles: Surprisingly, a full 96 percent of fraud perpetrators had no prior fraud conviction, according to the AFCE’s 2018 report. This underscores the fact that organizations need to have effective fraud detection methods in place to continuously protect the organization. This is particularly relevant considering fraudsters who were employed for more than five years stole twice as much, $200,000 vs $100,000 for newer employees.

Underlying Causes: Internal security measures are valuable lines of fraud defense for companies, yet nearly half of companies in the study cited “insufficient fraud controls” (30%) or “weak systems” (19%) as the underlying reason that fraud was made possible.

Impact: No organization is immune to occupational fraud. In fact, small businesses, defined as those with less than 100 employees, experienced a median loss of $200,000, compared to their larger counterparts of 100 or more employees, who experienced a median loss of just $114,000. It makes sense when you consider that small businesses have fewer resources to invest in internal controls and generally put more trust in their employees due to their inability to implement robust anti-fraud strategies.

Reporting Sources: Early detection is key to limiting losses associated with occupational fraud, and the ACFE study found that 40% of fraud detection came from tips. Of those tips, 53% were received internally and 32% from outside sources. Reporting hotlines go hand-in-hand with tips as an effective way to detect fraud. Of the companies analyzed in ACFE’s 2018 report, those with an accessible hotline detected fraud cases 46% of the time compared to a 30% success rate for companies without hotlines. The second highest fraud detection source at 15% was through an internal audit.

Using Technology to Detect Fraud

The key to catching fraudulent actions before real damage is done is having systems in place to ferret out anomalies and report suspicious activities early. This means being equipped with tools like automatic monitoring, artificial intelligence, and anomaly detection protocols. For instance, surprise audits and data monitoring are a powerful combination in reducing fraud loss. Though only 37% of the companies examined in the ACFE  study used them, those that did got fraud cases under control in approximately half the time and reduced fraud losses by more than 50%.

In its latest infographic, How is Technology Being Used to Detect Fraud, the ACFE highlights some of the technologies that organizations are using to proactively identify suspicious activities. Here is a sampling:

  • 26% of organizations currently use biometrics as part of their anti-fraud programs, and another 16% expect to deploy biometrics over the next two years.
  • Purchasing is the risk area where organizations most commonly use data analytics (41%) to monitor for potential fraud.
  • Nearly two-thirds of organizations currently use exception reporting or anomaly detection techniques in their fraud-related initiatives.

View the ACFE Infographic at fraudweek.com

To learn more ways to help your organization combat fraud, continue to look for our Fraud Week content and visit the ACFE Resources page.

Calculating the Payoff of Proactive Fraud Detection

By Lowers & Associates,

Calculate the Payoffs

According to a 2018 report from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), organizations lose 5% of their annual revenues to fraud. While you know your organization is not immune to fraud, it can be easy to assume that sooner or later, the fraudsters inside your organization will be caught. Surely, the controls you have in place and the managers and employees you trust are keen enough to detect and report unusual behaviors. So, why not let the truth reveal itself?

Should you do more to detect fraud?

While it’s true that most fraud (40%) is caught by tips from employees, customers, or vendors associated with the victim organization, relying on those tips is neither the most proactive nor the most effective way to detect fraud. In other words, just because tips are common, doesn’t mean they are the best source of detection.

 

detecting fraud with tips

Proactive fraud detection measures are shown to minimize the losses and damages caused by occupational fraud. The stark difference between proactive and passive detection methods comes to light when median losses and median months to detection are compared. Let’s take a strictly passive fraud detection method: confession. In cases where confession is the primary source of detection, it usually takes 24 months and costs the organization $186,000 in losses before the fraud comes to light. Comparatively, proactive measures such as account reconciliation, impact the organization far less and are detected more quickly. On average, account reconciliation is able to detect fraud within 11 months of its onset and halves the cost of fraud induced on an organization in comparison to relying on tips.

how fraud is detected

The outliers here are detection methods that are neither strictly active nor passive. These include tips and external audits, and how they are categorized depends on the circumstance. According to the 2018 ACFE report, such solutions were less effective than truly active solutions, but more effective than explicitly passive. For example, where fraud is detected through a tip, the case has generally already gone on for an average of 18 months with a median loss of $126K.

Being proactive is key to minimizing the losses and damages caused by occupational fraud.

The 2018 ACFE Report cites six proactive detection methods:

  • IT Controls
  • Surveillance/Monitoring
  • Account Reconciliation
  • Internal Audit
  • Management Review
  • Document Examination

The correlation between active and passive detection methods is made very clear. When plotting median months to detection and total losses, all six proactive detection methods outcompeted the passive detection methods in terms of both the time it took to detect, and the total amount lost in the case.

active fraud detection methodsThe point is clear, by choosing to proactively go after fraud, you put yourself in better standing to catch offenses early. This could be achieved by putting in place one of the six active detection methods. These proactive measures can be combined with other detection tools, such as hotlines. Hotlines and other reporting mechanisms were associated with a 50% reduction in losses for companies who have them, compared to companies without.

Does your organization take proactive measures to reduce the risk of occupational fraud? Discover ways to protect your company from the inside out.

  Category: Fraud Prevention
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8 Latest Stats on Occupational Fraud

By Lowers & Associates,

Occupational fraud, referring to fraud caused by an organization’s own employees or executives, is among the most preventable fraud risks that a company faces. While preventable, this form of fraud is also one of the most prevalent in organizations.

To take a closer look at this phenomenon, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) performs a bi-annual report. Its latest report, the 2018 Report to the Nations, studied 2,690 cases of occupational fraud across 125 nations. In addition to exploring its impact, the report looks at various fraud detection measures and their effect on the duration of the fraud and the size of loss incurred.

The ACFE report offers the latest stats on occupational fraud to inform your risk management and fraud prevention plans. Here are 8 notable findings:

1. Occupational fraud resulted in $7B in total losses in 2017.

The ACFE report identifies three categories of fraud: asset misappropriation, corruption, and financial statement fraud. Asset misappropriation was the most common type of fraud and occurred 89% of the time. However, financial statement fraud led to much greater median losses – $800,000 versus $114K median loss in asset misappropriation.

Of all asset misappropriation cases, altering checks and payments led to the greatest median losses, but billing fraud and non-cash were nearly tied for the highest overall incidences in asset misappropriation schemes.

2. Fraud cases resulted in losses greater than $1M or more in 22% of cases.

The 2018 ACFE report indicates that most companies either lose a relatively small sum (less than $200K) or a significantly larger amount. The differences are extreme. In 55% of cases, losses were below $200K, yet nearly a quarter of businesses incurred more than $1M in losses. The total loss values in between these two extremes were relatively less common, ranging from 2% to 11% in prevalence for this cohort. Of the 2,690 fraud cases examined, the median loss was $130K.

3. 40% of fraud cases were detected by a “tip.”

Early detection is key when it comes to limiting the losses associated with occupational fraud.  According to the ACFE study, the vast majority of fraud detection (40%) comes from tips, which far surpasses the second highest detection source, internal audit (15%).

Tips can come from anyone, but generally they come from within the company. In ACFE’s report, 53% of tips were received internally whereas 32% were from an outside source. Hotlines go hand-in-hand with tips as an effective way to detect fraud. Of the companies analyzed, those with an accessible hotline detected fraud cases 46% of the time, compared to a 30% success rate for companies without hotlines.

4. 96% of occupational fraud perpetrators had no prior fraud conviction.

Detection activities should take place throughout an employee’s tenure. Only 4% of fraudsters in the ACFE’s study had a history of criminal fraud. This is important information, as a pre-hire background check is likely insufficient on its own in preventing fraud. These first-time offenders require active and effective detection efforts to continuously protect the organization.

The ACFE was able to identify the six most common behavioral tendencies shared among fraudsters:

  1. Living outside of one’s financial means.
  2. Financial hardship.
  3. Unnecessary levels of closeness to certain clients.
  4. Controlling tendencies and reluctance to delegate with others.
  5. Issues at home (e.g. divorce).
  6. “Wheeler-dealer” tendencies.

5. Data monitoring and analysis combined with surprise audits reduce fraud loss by more than 50%.

Surprise audits and data monitoring are a powerful combination according to ACFE’s 2018 findings. Together, these contributed to significant reductions in fraud loss. When in place, proactive data monitoring and surprise audits got fraud cases under control in approximately half the time. Compared to cases where these controls were not in place, it reduced fraud losses by more than half.

Despite their effectiveness, neither proactive data analysis nor surprise audits tops the list for commonly used fraud control measures, each were only used by 37% of the companies examined in the 2018 study.

6. Weak internal security was responsible for almost half of the fraud instances.

Internal security can be a valuable line of defense for companies. When companies were asked about what opened the doors to fraud, 30% cited insufficient fraud controls as the top enabler. While 19% said that their systems were too weak and therefore overly easy for fraudsters to override.

7. Fraudsters who had been employed for more than 5 years stole twice as much.

According to the ACFE, employee tenure correlates with median fraud losses. The study found that fraudsters who had been a company for more than five years stole twice as much than relatively newer employees: $200K median loss versus $100K. Employees at a company for less than a year posed notably the least risk to companies, incurring median losses of $40K.

8. Collusion between two perpetrators doubles the loss.

Collusion is common in occupational fraud: 49% of cases investigated in ACFE’s study involved more than one fraudster. This holds especially true when executives and owners are involved – occurring in 66% of cases instigated by higher ups.

The involvement of multiple perpetrators is also more costly. The median loss in cases with one perpetrator was $74K, whereas that number rose to $150K for two perpetrators, and up to $339K when three or more were involved.

When it comes to occupational fraud, prevention and detection requires ongoing, diligent efforts. Whether it’s through surprise audits or providing channels for informants to report suspicious behavior, the team at Lowers & Associates can help establish your fraud prevention plan. Talk to a risk management expert today.

  Category: Occupational Fraud
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