Put employees to work fighting fraud

You may have the best internal controls in the business world, but if your employees don’t follow them, your company is at serious risk for fraud. The same is true if workers aren’t aware of your company’s risks and can’t recognize red flags. The solution? Educate them.

Training is critical

A forensic accountant can conduct on-site, broad-based training for employees in the form of live or virtual presentations. This expert might use role-playing to help staff understand the various forms fraud can take, as well as how perpetrators think and identify their victims’ vulnerabilities and weaknesses.

Enlisting the help of external experts is particularly important for smaller businesses. Not only are they more vulnerable to fraud, but they’re less likely to have in-house fraud expertise. Small-business training can focus on the most common schemes for companies with fewer than 100 employees, such as billing fraud and check-tampering schemes.

Threats that require employee attention

In general, your company’s specific needs should dictate the content of your training program. But most businesses need to spread the word about certain threats. For instance, employees should be trained to observe coworkers who appear to be living beyond their means or who might have addiction issues. Both increase the likelihood that an employee will attempt to commit fraud. If these workers have easy access to payroll or other accounting functions, the risk increases. Provide stakeholders with a confidential fraud reporting hotline or web portal to report their suspicious.

Cybercrime is another risk every employee needs to know about. Phishing, social engineering and other techniques are designed to trick them into revealing company, customer and other confidential data or providing access to your business’s network. Workers need to learn how to keep information safe by handling email carefully, changing passwords often and updating security software as soon as required.

Optional training

Depending on your industry, you might want to train employees to spot other risks. Construction and manufacturing businesses, where on-the-job injury rates are high, should prioritize workers compensation fraud training. Retailers and other cash-dependent businesses need to educate workers about potential skimming schemes.

Also train employees to mitigate risks related to specific responsibilities. For example, those who authorize charitable donations should be taught to verify charities with the IRS to ensure they’re legitimate and tax-exempt. Hiring managers and HR employees — as well as those who vet potential vendors — must follow background check procedures.

Empower fraud watchdogs 

Rank-and-file employees usually are the first ones to spot fraud perpetrated by coworkers or managers. So give them the tools they need to succeed in their role as fraud watchdogs. Contact us for help with fraud training.

© 2021 Covenant CPA

Forensic accountants are engaged for a wide variety of assignments, among them investigating fraud, auditing internal controls and quantifying damages associated with legal disputes. All of these require attention to detail and a diverse set of skills including mathematical, technological, legal and investigative. But the accounting landscape and client needs are constantly changing. Here’s how the profession has adapted to digitization in the 21st century and how it’s applying the latest technological solutions.

Embracing the digital revolution

Technology has radically changed how forensic accountants do their jobs. Businesses used to be awash in paper. Today, most companies run on a digital backbone and discourage employees from printing to save money and reduce environmental damage. Consequently, forensic accountants must be able to gather, analyze and make sense of vast amounts of electronic data.

In addition to processing company data to, for example, calculate financial ratios, build spreadsheets and determine legal damages, many experts routinely attempt to recover data that perpetrators have deliberately deleted. During an investigation, a forensic accountant might:

  • Search for and piece together deleted files,
  • Analyze suspicious user activity on company servers,
  • Identify relevant electronic files within a company’s network, and
  • View suspected perpetrators’ social media accounts.

Newer developments, such as cloud-based storage solutions and a shift from working in offices to working remotely, mean that forensic accountants now must look outside the traditional confines of a company’s IT perimeter.

Glimpse of the future

As for the future, artificial intelligence (AI) increasingly looks like it will play a significant role. Most forensic accountants must harness vast amounts of electronic data to do their jobs. Expenses associated with a forensic investigation can quickly add up.

AI and machine learning enable forensic accountants to continue to deliver cost-effective services. These tools allow experts to analyze large data sets faster and can even “make decisions” such as determine what constitutes a suspicious invoice and flag those records. Or AI might review a set of contracts, seeking certain words or features that suggest higher risk. In general, the more records an AI system reviews over time, the more it “learns” and the higher its accuracy rate.

Other tools

Other technologies predicted to play a greater role in forensic accounting in the future include predictive analytics, blockchain, robotics and bots. But whatever tools forensic accountants use, the underlying issues — fraud and legal disputes — remain basically the same. If you or your business is grappling with these issues, contact us.

© 2020 Covenant CPA