Fraud Risks – Past, Present and Future

Aug 9, 2017 10:30:00 AM |

Jeffrey N. Aucoin

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Birthday.jpgThis week I will begin my 44th year of life. Birthdays are milestones that induce reflection, especially as we get older. I look back at what I have accomplished and look forward to the years ahead. From the past, I can glean nuggets of knowledge and wisdom from my shortcomings and accomplishments. By looking into the future, I can dream about what can be. It is a place to find inspiration and destinations.

Finally, it all comes back to the present, which is where we live every day. The present is what I can control. I develop smaller goals and a strategy to help me reach my destinations, while considering the pitfalls that tripped me up in the past. My battle cries for this upcoming year are “Growth Mindset” for my business life and “Play Hard” for my personal life. I need both to have balance.

This process, which is my “gut check,” translates well to the business world when developing mission, vision and strategic plans, but few businesses revisit them as often as they should—plans may need to shift, measurement tools may need to change, or resources realign to address changing needs. These plans also rarely address the fraud risks that could bring progress toward goals to a screeching halt.

Have you done a “gut check” at your company? If so, how long ago did you do it? Did it include a meaningful discussion about fraud? If you answered, “No” to any of these questions, I recommend scheduling some time to collaborate with employees, customers and vendors to make sure you know where your organization is going, that everyone knows the steps they need to take to get there, and that the organization is properly measuring and rewarding progress. The following are a few thought starters to help you discuss fraud during your next “gut check” meeting:

  • Past – Fraud has been happening for years, and it has happened within your organization. If you haven’t found a significant fraud in the past five years, then you probably aren’t looking hard enough. If fraud has been identified, then 1) do you think you found all of it, and 2) did you implement controls to address the risk in the future?
  • Present – Fraud prevention is all about creating a culture that engages all levels within the organization. The culture should incorporate effective hotline management, rewarding whistleblowing, anti-fraud training, an open and collaborative work environment, transparent decision making, and buy-in from top to bottom. This is hard to achieve. Even the best anti-fraud policies and programs don’t always translate into practice because informal behaviors trump everything.
  • Future – Dream about the fraud scheme, internal or external, that could take down your organization tomorrow. “Dream” is probably the wrong word, but it would be a nightmare if it came true.

As I dream of my future destinations and make plans to achieve them, you may want to plan so that the next big fraud scheme doesn’t take down your organization. If it does, your nightmare will become a reality.

I challenge you to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “Did I live this past year to its fullest?” And with your organization, “Did we accomplish everything we could have this past year?” I bet the answer to both questions is “No.” Now, I ask, what is your battle cry going to be for this upcoming year?

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THIS POST WAS WRITTEN BY Jeffrey N. Aucoin

Jeffrey N. Aucoin, CPA, CFF, CFE, CIA, serves as a fraud, forensic and litigation services partner at HORNE LLP. He has managed numerous fraud investigations including embezzlement schemes, insurance fraud, employee theft and misappropriation of assets. He also provides litigation support services for economic damage claims, document management engagements and bankruptcy matters.

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