If there’s one thing you’ve learned as a small business owner, it’s to expect the unexpected. Rising costs, unforeseen delays and flaky prospects are just a few of the obstacles you’ve managed to overcome with the help of your team. But what would happen if you found out that those fueling your success are actually leading to your demise?
Occupational fraud is a killer. The typical organization loses 5 percent of their revenue to fraud each year, according to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE). And small business fraud hits victims disproportionately hard with a median loss standing at a staggering $154,000.
You can divide occupational fraud into three distinct categories: asset misappropriation, corruption and financial statement fraud.
Asset misappropriation involves the theft or misuse of cash and assets. It is the most common form, occurring in 85 percent of cases. However, it is the least costly with a median loss of $130,000.
Corruption can be viewed as the middle ground, occurring in 37 percent of cases with a median loss of $200,000. It encompasses conflicts of interest, extortion, bribery and illegal gratuities.
In stark contrast to asset misappropriate is financial statement fraud. It involves overstating assets, revenues and profits and understating expenses so the fraudster can discretely siphon funds. While it only occurs in 9 percent of fraud cases, the median loss is an astonishing $1,000,000.
Could your small business afford a million dollar fraud loss or the baggage it comes with? Once a fraudster is revealed you should expect to spend endless hours dealing with the IRS, a wave of negative publicity and several broken business relationships.
As a small business owner you must maintain a watchful eye on all business activities to ensure that something as serious as tampering with business finances doesn’t happen on your watch.
Here are the five signs you can’t afford to miss:
- Lifestyle changes
Is an employee inexplicably living the good life? New jewelry, cars, homes and clothes could be a key tip-off that something’s not quite right. This is one of the many reasons it pays to get to know your employees better. Having a handle on the kind of people they are and a sense of their family life gives a much clearer picture of what to expect on all fronts.
- Debt or credit problems
Bad credit is something many fraudsters will keep under wraps, but it’s not impossible to spot. Frequent calls from creditors during work, talk of high interest payments and trouble finding loans are a few major giveaways. One tactic many employers are turning to is checking applicants’ credit scores during the hiring process.
- Behavioral changes
Small business fraud is commonly committed to fuel an addiction or suppress anxieties and fear. Look for the red flags of a developing dependency to drugs or alcohol including a lack of productivity, unpredictable or volatile behavior, injuries or accidents and arriving late to work or appearing lethargic. These behavioral changes may also stem from stress due to family life or job security, talk with your employees immediately if you pick up on any of these cues.
- High employee turnover
No one wants to work with a fraudster. If employees are starting to seek new ventures, especially if the is turnover is concentrated to one specific department, it may be time to ask yourself “why?” Give your employees an outlet to voice concerns by implementing a fraud hotline. The ACFE found that tips are the most common way to detect small business fraud and companies with an anonymous reporting hotline are more likely to catch fraud via a tip.
- Controlling tendencies
Is your employee a perfectionist or a thief? It can sometimes be hard to tell. Occupational fraudsters commonly refuse to take sick days or vacation and don’t segregate duties in the vulnerable area for fear of being exposed. What’s a great way to snatch the opportunity away from fraudsters while boosting productivity? Create a team-focused work environment where duties are shared and transparency is celebrated.
While these tips are crucial in detecting a perpetrator, it’s important to implement necessary security measures to proactively prevent small business fraud. Stay vigilant, hire smart and have a variety anti-fraud controls in place.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of EZShield Inc. alone and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of any other person or entity, including specifically any person or entity affiliated with the distribution or display of this content.