2012 Report to the Nations
Conclusions and Recommendations
The nature and threat of occupational fraud is truly universal. Though our research noted some regional differences in the methods used to commit fraud — as well as organizational approaches to preventing and detecting it — many trends and characteristics are similar regardless of where the fraud occurred.
Providing individuals a means to report suspicious activity is a critical part of an anti-fraud program. Fraud reporting mechanisms, such as hotlines, should be set up to receive tips from both internal and external sources and should allow anonymity and confidentiality. Management should actively encourage employees to report suspicious activity, as well as enact and emphasize an anti-retaliation policy.
External audits should not be relied upon as an organization’s primary fraud detection method. Such audits were the most commonly implemented control in our study; however, they detected only 3% of the frauds reported to us, and they ranked poorly in limiting fraud losses. While external audits serve an important purpose and can have a strong preventive effect on potential fraud, their usefulness as a means of uncovering fraud is limited.
Targeted fraud awareness training for employees and managers is a critical component of a well-rounded program for preventing and detecting fraud. Not only are employee tips the most common way occupational fraud is detected, but our research shows organizations that have anti-fraud training programs for employees, managers and executives experience lower losses and shorter frauds than organizations without such programs in place. At a minimum, staff members should be educated regarding what actions constitute fraud, how fraud harms everyone in the organization and how to report questionable activity.
Our research continues to show that small businesses are particularly vulnerable to fraud. These organizations typically have fewer resources than their larger counterparts, which often translates to fewer and less-effective anti-fraud controls. In addition, because they have fewer resources, the losses experienced by small businesses tend to have a greater impact than they would in larger organizations. Managers and owners of small businesses should focus their anti-fraud efforts on the most cost-effective control mechanisms, such as hotlines, employee education and setting a proper ethical tone within the organization. Additionally, assessing the specific fraud schemes that pose the greatest threat to the business can help identify those areas that merit additional investment in targeted anti-fraud controls.
Most fraudsters exhibit behavioral traits that can serve as warning signs of their actions. These red flags — such as living beyond one’s means or exhibiting excessive control issues — generally will not be identified by traditional internal controls. Managers, employees and auditors should be educated on these common behavioral patterns and encouraged to consider them — particularly when noted in tandem with other anomalies — to help identify patterns that might indicate fraudulent activity.
The cost of occupational fraud — both financially and to an organization’s reputation — can be acutely damaging. With nearly half of victim organizations unable to recover their losses, proactive measures to prevent fraud are critical. Management should continually assess the organization’s specific fraud risks and evaluate its fraud prevention programs in light of those risks. A checklist such as the one on page 69 can help organizations effectively prevent fraud before it occurs.
2020 Report to the Nations