Recently, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) released its bi-annual “Report to the Nations”.  This comprehensive survey attempts to quantify and “expand the knowledge and understanding of the ways in which occupational fraud occurs and the financial impact this threat has on organizations around the world.”[1]

     “The 2014 edition of the report is based upon 1,483 cases of occupational fraud, as reported by the Certified Fraud Examiners who investigated them.”[2] The ACFE classifies fraud into three major categories:  asset misappropriation, corruption, and financial statement fraud.   Of the 1,483 cases studied the median loss caused by fraud was $145,000.  Although financial statement fraud was the most infrequent variety, it caused the greatest loss in dollar terms.  Asset misappropriation, anything from simple cash schemes to check kiting, was the most common type of fraud with the smallest dollar loss.  This type of fraud, however, tends to fall disproportionately on small to medium sized businesses who can least afford the loss and who are the least likely to recover their stolen property.  

     Interestingly enough, organizations with a tip hotline were the most likely to catch fraud schemes occurring and, once discovered, the fraud schemes tended to be less costly.  Conversely, external audit was the least likely method of detecting fraud.  This realization has been noted repeatedly in multiple ACFE reports from prior years.  Even after the renewed emphasis on fraud risk and audit procedures designed to mitigate that risk from the likes of Sarbanes-Oxley, SAS 99 (AU 316), and media scrutiny on the subject after recent well publicized corporate fraud scandals, the external audit function still falls far behind in detecting and identifying fraud. [3]

     As the economy continues to behave sporadically, there will be even more incentive for fraudsters to find ways to cheat the system.  If you operate a business concern, review the segregation of duties among your staff.  Project a “no tolerance” tone at the top and hold management accountable for internal control procedures.  If you have had turnover of personnel, ensure that  new staff are trained on their proper responsibilities.  No organization can completely remove the risk of fraud, but you can take steps to reduce that risk.  The ACFE has a handy fraud prevention checklist that any organization can use to identify weak controls and processes.  Call the Rodeheaver Group at 301-334-3127 and ask how we can help review and improve your internal procedures and keep you from being the next victim.

[1] Ratley, James. Letter from the President & CEO.  ACFE, 12 Aug 2014.  [2] Ibid     
[3] General facts and findings of The Report can be accessed at: http://www.acfe.com/rttn.aspx.  Retrieved 8/12/14.

 


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