Lessons in Occupational Fraud and Fraud Prevention

By Lowers & Associates,

Occupational fraud is a huge drain on organizations’ resources, costing an estimated global loss of $3.7 trillion dollars annually. And according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiner’s (ACFE) 2014 study, just 14% of defrauded organizations are able to fully recover their losses.

Fraud is a very real threat to the bottom line of almost every organization in our economy. But it can be prevented, or at least mitigated.

There are 3 steps in setting up a fraud prevention program in your organization:

  1. Understand what fraud is and how it is likely to emerge.
  2. Identify potential sources of fraud in your organizations.
  3. Take steps to prevent fraud through processes or controls.

Ultimately, a healthy anti-fraud corporate culture that permeates from the top down will make your organization more crime resistant. This will take time to nurture, and it will take continuous effort to sustain, but in the end you can make occupational fraud an extinct disease in your workplace.

… Continue reading

Protecting Against Ghost Employee Fraud

By Lowers & Associates,

fraud perpetrators

Payroll fraud accounts for about 9.3% of occupational fraud at a cost of over $300 million per year across all types of organizations. One of the most common forms of payroll fraud is the use of “ghost employees” to divert money to fraudulent identities. Like all organizational frauds, this is a hidden crime that can best be prevented by controls designed to expose all payroll transactions.

The Ghost in the Payroll Machine

A “ghost employee” exists only as an identity in payroll records, although the ghost may be a real person who does not actually work for the company. The ghost employee scam is only successful if the perpetrator has unmonitored access to company systems, so it is typically an inside job. The scheme works if:

  • The ghost identity can be added to payroll records.
  • The system has to be set up to make payments to the ghost, either for false time and/or wages, or for other types of payments, e.g., expense reimbursements.
  • Payments made to the ghost must be concealed, especially from existing controls.
  • Actual disbursement – the point of the fraud – occurs.  … Continue reading

Due Diligence as a Way of Life

By Lowers & Associates,

due diligence

The phrase “Due diligence” sounds complicated but in reality, it is simply the process of doing your homework before you make a major commitment, either on a business or personal level.  Due diligence can be as simple as just asking the proper questions and making sure that a situation is “not too good to be true.”  This idea of checking into the facts behind a transaction to ensure it is fairly valued is the source of the old adage, “let the buyer beware.”[i]

Most of us practice due diligence even though we may not think of it that way.  For example, most people these days will do some research on the internet before making a major purchase, like buying a car.  We scan websites to get an idea of a fair price, the dealer cost, and any low interest financing deals so we can be prepared to counter the ”rock bottom price” offered by the car salesman.   In this process, we are doing our “due diligence” to get the best deal possible.

Due Diligence as a Defense

There are important legal uses of the term “due diligence.”  It began as a term describing a legal defense in the Securities Act of 1933.  Its purpose in that Act was to give broker-dealers a defense against an accusation that they had not disclosed information in a securities transaction.  If they had performed “due diligence” in researching the company, they could not be held liable for information they did not discover.[ii] … Continue reading

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

By Lowers & Associates,

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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The Changing Culture of Risk

By Lowers & Associates,

occupational fraud

There are a couple trends in our current society that lead many to believe that risks from human capital are on the rise. You might refer to this as the “cultural context of risk.”[i] If indeed human capital risks are on the rise it makes sense that C-suites have a greater obligation to take action to identify, assess, and act to mitigate the risks they face.

One trend is exemplified in the increasing incidence of occupational fraud (see our graphic summary of fraud). The most worrisome aspect of this is that it may reflect a change in our culture toward less personal honesty or restraint – sociologists would refer to this as a decline in “social control” as opposed to the formal control of law enforcement. If this is true, employers face a permanently more difficult challenge in finding employees they can trust to work for the good of the organization.

The second trend may actually be part of a social response to the failure of social control. In place of allowing organizations to control their own behaviors, government has adopted some increasingly stringent regulations ranging from SOX, to the Fair Credit Reporting Act, to the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau. These legal controls create a rigid, maybe brittle, operating environment that exposes organizations to much higher risk for specific kinds of employee-based failures. … Continue reading