Smaller enterprises are at the greatest risk from fraud, particularly from within the organization. They’re the least likely to have dedicated security personnel, and most likely to lack adequate internal systems and controls to prevent fraud. You can minimize your exposure to fraud by learning how it’s perpetrated in businesses like yours. There are also policies you should put in place to prevent fraud from occurring. We’ll start with the two most common types of fraud, fake invoicing and cheating on expense accounts.
These common frauds are usually along the lines of an employee sending his own company a false invoice which is approved for payment. The employee receives payment that is thought to have gone to a legitimate supplier. The employee simply sets up a company as the fraudulent supplier, establishes a bank account for that business, and then begins sending invoices to his employer.
Frequently the employee has signature authority over the invoices that are sent, so approval is easily accomplished! It’s also possible that the employee is working corruptly with another employee to get the invoices approved. In any event, the company pays for something it never received.
There are variations to this type of fraud in which goods are actually supplied but the ‘vendor’ (the employee’s company) is overpaid for what is delivered. There are also instances where a third party colludes with the employee to overcharge for goods and refund a portion of the price to the employee.
Expense account frauds
In any business there are likely to be a number of employees with the authority to incur expenses on behalf of the company for which they will be reimbursed. These can vary from insignificant amounts, such as for postage and stationery items, all the way up to airfares and accommodation costs for sales staff.
Expense account cheating usually takes the form of wrongly describing the expense incurred or overstating it. Some expenses may have never happened, or were for personal use and not business related at all. Because it’s fairly easy these days to create ‘dummy’ invoices on a home PC, simply having a receipt doesn’t necessarily prove that expenditure actually took place. It’s also possible to copy a genuine invoice and increase the amount or change the details on it.
Well administered policies are the best defense
Fraud is difficult to prevent and often very hard to detect. The best way to combat workplace fraud in a smaller enterprise is to have suitable policies in place and to unfailingly enforce them.
To deter employees from submitting fake invoices, payments should never be made to suppliers that aren’t approved by the owner, nor should a sudden increase in the amounts purchased from any supplier be allowed to happen without a valid reason.
All suppliers should be qualified before any orders are placed with them or payments made to them. This includes having full details of ownership and trading references that verify a history for the business.
Expense account frauds aren’t easy to stop, but once again having appropriate policies and enforcing them will help reduce the possibility of fraudulent claims being submitted. The most basic policy is to pay only for expenses supported by original receipts; photocopies or reprints should never be allowed.
Review the amounts of all expenses and be alert for overcharging or duplication. Be aware of every employee’s responsibilities and their need to incur expenses to meet them. If an employee’s claims show a sudden increase, be sure to query them for the reason as quickly as possible. Experience shows that if they get away with a fraudulent claim once, they’ll almost surely try it again.
Information in this article is sourced from RAN ONE, Inc.