Collusion: Teamwork at its Worst

By Lowers & Associates,

Teamwork is usually a good thing. Many organizations work hard to increase its effectiveness because well-coordinated activity can boost productivity and improve outcomes. Unfortunately, the effect of multiple people colluding to commit occupational fraud and abuse has the same kind of effect as good teamwork by increasing the impact of the crime.

Greater Collusion = Greater Loss

The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) 2016 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse shows that the greater the number of people colluding in a fraud, the greater the loss. The median loss for a lone fraudster was $85,000, while losses where 5 or more colluded was $833,000.

It’s important to note that about 48% of the cases covered by the 2016 report involve collusion between two or more people. However, fraud by collusion was detected in about 18 months as compared to 16 months for the lone fraudster, so the duration of the fraud was not the prime source of the higher cost of collusion. In any event, the frequency and higher cost of collusion means that this form of fraud is a serious threat.

Working Together to Defeat Controls

Collusion may enable fraudsters to defeat controls based on separation of duties, independent verification procedures, or other procedural methods intended to reduce fraud or failure. Certainly, employees are expert in the application of controls where they work every day. When two or more of them coordinate activity meant to defraud the organization, they can defeat the controls at least for a time.

How to Detect Collusion

Detection of clever collusion schemes may be improved by setting up automated tracking or standardized analytical systems that flag unusual behaviors. For example, numerous transactions on a dormant or very low volume account or transaction amounts outside normal limits may indicate fraud. The system might flag changes in employee behavior, such as failure to take a vacation for a lengthy period of time or a significant change in working hours. The system might be designed to create norms for behavior in a given type of job and compare each person in that role to the norm. Outliers’ of behaviors could be scrutinized more closely.

Prevention is the Best Medicine

Of course, prevention is better than detection because detection means that fraudulent losses have already occurred. Potential fraudsters may leave a trail based on internal searches, such as searches for accounts whose inactivity means that they would not be regularly monitored, helping them to escape detection.

More straightforward, a well-designed hiring process with effective background checks, plus regular training in fraud prevention can help to create a workplace culture where fraud is not tolerated. Multiplying the number of people who would report suspicious behavior is probably the most effective means of fraud prevention, including collusion to commit fraud.

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.

How Can You Cut Your Organization’s Risk of Fraud by 50%?

By Mark Lowers,

compliance training

You’ve seen the data before: Organizational fraud is a huge annual cost. Managers want to reduce the costs, so the real questions are to learn why fraud occurs and what to do about it.

The most compelling explanation for organizational fraud is the Fraud Triangle, as summarized in our recent infographic. Frauds occur when there is opportunity, one or more employees are under perceived financial pressure (incentives exist), and they can rationalize their fraudulent behavior. These 3 factors correspond to the legs of the triangle.

Control the Opportunities to Reduce the Chances of Fraud

In our experience, organizations can reduce the probability of organizational fraud by just removing one of those legs of the triangle. There are things you can’t control, such as employees’ spending habits, but if you remove the opportunity for employees to get their hands on an asset without the potential of getting caught, then you’ve reduced that probability by 50 percent. … Continue reading

  Category: Risk Management
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