Is Your Industry a Fraud Hot Spot?

By Lowers & Associates,

Thanks to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), we know quite a bit about organizational fraud and abuse by way of its annual Report to the Nations. The data behind these annual reports is based on actual cases researched by fraud examiners and includes a standard set of measures across cases.

One part of the data that may be interesting to you is the variation of fraud and abuse across types of industries. ACFE has produced an infographic based on the 2016 report titled How Much Does Fraud Cost Your Industry? that summarizes part of the data, and we provide some additional background here.

Banking and Financial Services Top the Charts

Banking and financial services accounts for almost 17% of the total cases reported, with government and public administration, manufacturing, health care, and education all experiencing more than 5% of the cases, with retail close behind at 4.8%.

On the other end of the spectrum, communications, mining, wholesale trade, arts and entertainment, utilities and real estate each accounted for less than 2% of cases. To some extent, these numbers reflect the size of the industry, and specifically which industries are most likely to engage fraud examiners. However, the types of opportunities for fraud and abuse (the report refers to these as schemes) also vary by industry and will correlate with actual criminal activity.

Opportunities or schemes are defined by the type of fraud committed. Many of these involve financial transactions within the organization, including billing, check tampering, expense reimbursements, financial statement fraud, payroll, and register disbursements. Others are direct thefts of valuable goods or cash, like skimming, cash theft, non-cash theft, and cash larceny. Among these schemes, billing fraud is the most frequently reported, reflecting the fact that this is an activity virtually every organization performs—it is truly an equal opportunity fraud.

Corruption Crosses Industry Lines

Somewhat surprising is that the most prevalent scheme of all is corruption—it is the single most common fraud for most industries. Corruption accounts near or slightly above 50% of the reported cases in mining, transportation, manufacturing, oil and gas, and technology, and is not less than 20% of cases in any industry except professional services. Since manufacturing is also a higher risk industry overall, its level of fraud by corruption is very high, with 93 cases in 2016. Other industries with a high number of corruption cases include banking and financial services (138) and government and public administration (88).

The median cost of fraud varies from a low of $62,000 in education to a high of $500,000 in mining. For the other industries with most reported cases, banking and financial services was $192,000, government $133,000, manufacturing $194,000, and health care was $120,000. The costs are significant in all industries, indicating that anti-fraud measures are well worthwhile across the board.

To get a closer look at fraud in your industry, take a look at the 2016 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse.

Fraud Can’t Happen Here! Really?

By Mark Lowers,

If you are like many business owners and managers, you are certain there are no fraud problems in your organization. Are you really sure?

Every two years, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) publishes a new version of their “Report to the Nations” (here’s the 2014 version) on the incidence and costs of organizational fraud. In every report they find that about 5% of top line revenue is lost worldwide to thefts by employees, owners, or partners with access to an organization’s resources.

The aggregate monetary cost of these losses is staggering, and does not even estimate the on-going costs of damages to reputation. ALL types of organization are vulnerable, and ALL types of employees and owners perpetrate these thefts. The only distinctive pattern in the data year after year is that fraud is a ubiquitous problem.

And yet, we often find organizations that have no preventative measures in place against fraud, and take no effective actions to detect it. This complacency is a common human trait: if nothing has happened in the past, nothing is going to happen in the future. Predicting the future based on historic patterns is a powerful tool, and it is often accurate. … Continue reading

Are You Doing Enough To Protect Against Financial Fraud?

By Mark Lowers,

Yet more evidence of the prevalence of financial fraud against organizations has emerged from a recent poll by Kyriba. The poll found that almost 80% of organizations had been victims of fraud.  The very high proportion of victims is startling in itself, but it is consistent with information we have presented in previous posts that organizational fraud is a global problem, costing 5% of top line revenue annually.

Almost 30% of the respondents to the Kyriba poll reported suffering financial losses, but we think this is a conservative number in this context. Organizational fraud is a hidden crime that sometimes is difficult to detect, even long after the fact.  When organizations do detect fraud, they may have incentives to minimize publicity about the crime, so underreporting is probable.

The poll includes some indications that the fraud was even more costly than reported.  5.6% of respondents reported that they had been targets of fraud but did not know if they had suffered losses, while almost 14% did not even know if they had been targets or not.  In fact, a little less than 8% reported that they knew they had not been victims, and it’s a good bet that a few of these simply hadn’t found out yet. … Continue reading

Asset Tracing

By Tom Johnson,

Financial investigations are a large part of the work that private security firms perform especially when it comes to helping clients protect business and personal financial interests. With all the fraudulent activity, credit problems and indebtedness issues that exist today, investigators have to rely on a combination of strategies to deal with financial risk and debt recovery. Very often investigators begin by conducting an asset trace to gather the necessary details to develop a profile and formulate a course of action.

There are numerous reasons why businesses, insurance companies, attorneys, and individuals hire private firms to conduct an asset trace, including determining if a borrower has the means to pay back a loan, conducting due diligence when entering into a contract or merger/acquisition, in anticipation of litigation, and dealing with compensation issues arising from personal or property injuries. … Continue reading