Employee fraud almost always exhibits red flags. Sometimes those red flags go unnoticed, but that does not have to be the case. Individuals with fiduciary responsibilities can learn to recognize some of the common red flags that may indicate fraud.
Reading Potential Red Flags
Large Items in Account Reconciliations
First, account reconciliations can reveal red flags in the form of large or unusual items. One way that a fraudster can attempt to cover up fund embezzlement is by falsifying bank reconciliations with a fictitious deposit in transit (e.g., currency, checks, electronic transfers, etc). That deposit remains on the bank reconciliation for several days – sometimes even lapping a month’s reconciliation – before the fraudster switches to another deposit in transit to hide the stolen funds. The bottom line is that the deposit in transit remains on a bank reconciliation much longer than it naturally should. The same situation can be created with a real deposit in transit that actually clears, but the deposit in transit is left on the bank reconciliation too long.
Unusual Variances in Performance and Trend Reports
Second, performance reports and trend reports with large variances can reveal a red flag. For instance, if a performance report shows that an account goes over the budget, then it could be as a result of a fraud. That is, a key person may choose to have the entity pay for his or her personal expenses and charge an account that causes it to go over budget. A periodic trend report review year over year can reveal a similar occurrence even when an account is not over budget.
Sudden Behavioral Changes
Most fraudsters begin spending extra money and their lifestyle seems outside of their means. In fact, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ research has shown for years that living beyond means is the number one behavioral red flag. Other behavioral changes could be failure to take vacation (for fear of getting caught once another person performs their duties), financial difficulties, control issues, family problems, unusual irritability, or work habit changes.
CRI Can Help You Prepare for Employee Fraud
Spotting frauds sooner can help reduces its associated costs. Therefore, it pays for all responsible parties to be familiar with as many red flags as possible – and to closely monitor systems, accounts, and transactions for signs of fraud. If your business needs help implementing internal controls processes designed to deter or detect fraud early, contact CRI’s forensic CPAs to learn more.