[Slideshow] 18 Fraud Facts to Drive Your 2018 Fraud Prevention Plan

By Lowers & Associates,

Fraud Week comes at a perfect time each year, just before the start of a new year when many organizations take a structured look at their performance over the past months, and begin to prepare for the year ahead. When it comes time to review your fraud risk management and prevention plan, it pays to have some hard statistics in front of you.

Our latest slideshow features 18 facts straight from the ACFE’s bi-annual Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse. The report can help you understand and respond to the threat of organizational fraud in your company, and the facts presented can serve as benchmarks for your organization while helping to uncover areas you may have failed to address.

How will you use these facts to create a more effective fraud prevention plan for your company in 2018?

  Category: Fraud Awareness
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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.

Why Fraudsters Do What They Do

By Lowers & Associates,

Most managers and owners eventually discover a case of fraud and abuse in their organization. The fraudster is often a trusted, long-time employee or manager who had or created access to some of the organization’s assets, and helped him or herself to it.

Why does this happen?

The answer is not simply greed, but most, maybe even all, people want things and want more things. There are studies that show an amazingly high proportion of employees or managers have taken small things from their organization. However, there is a line between this petty theft and intentional fraud that a few people cross over.

The Fraud Triangle: A Model for Understanding Fraud

The fraud triangle, created by criminologist Donald Cressey, lays out the three factors that make up a true case of fraud. Like all crime, fraud requires both motive (called “pressure” in most discussions of the fraud triangle) and opportunity. Cressey named two of the legs of his triangle after these, but added a third element—rationalization—that is needed to account for the fact that occupational frauds can go on for a very long time before being discovered. The rationalization allows the fraudster to dull the pain of remorse and carry on as if nothing were wrong.

It’s difficult to explain the incidence of fraud by opportunity. Of course, the crime cannot occur without opportunity, but the same circumstances are available to other people in the organization who do not yield to the temptation. Even the fraudster may be exposed to the opportunity for many years before stepping across the line.

The key to the fraud is pressure. There are as many sources of pressure as there are fraudsters, but the most typical one is financial. Fraudsters may suddenly need money they cannot get quickly enough by saving, perhaps for a debt or loss, or to compensate for a bad investment. Of course, greed plays a role when a desirable lifestyle cannot be supported by income. Some fraudsters may simply feel entitled by a real or perceived slight, by being passed over for a promotion, or other personal affront.

If the pressure is the motivation, then rationalization allows the fraudster to continue to live as a thief. The purpose of rationalization is to justify bad behavior, so it will frame the behavior as a righteous act. For instance, the fraud may be seen as a response of a mistreated small person against a cold, uncaring corporation. Whatever the specifics, think of the fraudster as believing that their gains are just deserts.

Most financial and organizational controls like segregation of duties are aimed at known opportunities. These are generally well known, documented, and taught. However, occupational fraud is almost always done by an insider who knows the controls very well. So, the motivational component is key, and neither internal controls nor external audits are designed to assess motivation.

How well do you know your employees?

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.

Test Your Fraud Knowledge

By Lowers & Associates,

International Fraud Awareness Week begins next week. The point of Fraud Week, sponsored by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), is to raise the visibility of occupational fraud and abuse, and to remind organizations to review and improve their fraud prevention and detection capabilities.

In case you’re thinking fraud is not an issue in your organization, you should know that extrapolating from actual fraud cases examined in 2016 and reported to ACFE, organizations worldwide lose 5% of topline revenue to fraud. Virtually every type of organization from business, government to non-profit sectors is vulnerable to fraud.

How much do you know about occupational fraud and abuse with respect to your organization? Prepare for Fraud Week by trying your hand at these questions based on ACFE’s 2016 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse (answers are below):

1. Occupational frauds are most often detected in which way:

a) By accident
b) Through a management review
c) By a tip
d) By an internal audit

2. The median duration of occupational fraud is:

a) 3 months
b) 6 months
c) 18 months
d) 24 months

3. About what percentage of occupational frauds are committed by 2 or more in collusion?

a) 19%
b) 37%
c) 48%
d) 62%

4. What is the median loss to fraud?

a) $110,000
b) $150,000
c) $225,000
d) $1,000,000

5. The proportion of the 2016 fraud cases in the U.S. committed by owners or executives is:

a) 5%
b) 10%
c) 15%
d) 20%

6. The median loss to fraud for companies with less than 100 employees as compared to companies with 10,000+ employees are:

a) Much smaller
b) Proportionately smaller
c) About the same
d) Larger

7. The largest proportion of fraud is perpetrated by employees who have been with the organization:

a) Less than 1 year
b) 1 to 5 years
c) 6 to 10 years
d) More than 10 years

Answers

  1. c) By a tip. In 2016, tips were the most common detection method by a wide margin, accounting for 39.1% of cases. Hotlines were especially effective in generating tips.
  2. c) 18 months. The longer the fraud continues undetected, the higher the cost. 20% of the cases in 2016 were undetected for 36 months or longer, and cases that endured for 60+ months caused a median loss of $850,000.
  3. c) About 48%. In cases of fraud by collusion, the cost of the crime increased as more people were involved. A single fraudster caused a median $85,000 in losses, while a collaboration of 5 or more cost $833,000.
  4. b) $150,000 was the median loss. However, the average loss per case was $2.7 million, indicating that losses due to occupational fraud can be very significant.
  5. d) About 20%. Median loss due to fraud by U.S. owners or executives was far higher at $500,000 than for managers ($150,000) or employees ($54,000). Part of the difference is due to the fact that owner or executive fraud went undetected longer.
  6. c) About the same. In 2016, the median loss of a fraud case in an organization of less than 100 employees was $150,000, the same as for an organization with 10,000 or more employees. The relative impact of the loss was obviously much greater for the smaller organizations.
  7. b) 1 to 5 years. Employees are more likely to commit a fraud if they are familiar with the controls and systems in place, or when something in their circumstances changes over time. However, the median loss for a fraud increases regularly as the employee’s tenure lengthens.

You can learn a lot about occupational fraud and abuse by reading the 2016 Report to the Nations. Better yet, you can begin to see how you can improve your fraud prevention program to avoid being one of the cases in the Report.