What to look out for and how to prepare.
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Fraud is a growing problem for organizations of all sizes. While many high-profile cases target large companies, a significant percent of attacks are aimed at small businesses. As it turns out, businesses with fewer than 100 employees lose a median of $155,000 each year as a result of fraud.
As a Consumer & Business Banking Market Leader for U.S. Bank in Las Vegas, Morris Jackson has worked with clients who have been the victim of billing fraud, reimbursement fraud, office fraud, payroll time fraud, and cyber fraud, to name just a few. The best protection against the vast majority of cases, he’s found, is adequate preparation and deploying proactive strategies to deter fraud before it happens.
In a recent webcast, he shared three tips for doing exactly that. “These principles will allow you to protect your business from some of the most common types of fraud we are seeing out there today,” he said.
1. Know your business and audit processes.
There is no one-size-fits-all rule to prevent fraud. Jackson said. “You have to understand your business and how money leaves your organization.”
Knowing the flow of financial transactions can help you identify areas of potential exposure. For example, retailers and restaurant owners might have to look out for employees skimming cash. “In other types of businesses, the concern might be invoicing scams, travel and expense reporting, payroll scams, or even workers compensation in an environment like manufacturing,” Jackson said.
No matter your business’ size or industry, chances are you have at least some customer data that could be exploited by fraudsters. The first step toward protecting this information is identifying how it could be exposed.
From there, make sure you have an audit system in place—i.e. a set of procedures that allow you to regularly evaluate your company’s security measures. The audit process itself should also be reviewed and updated regularly as operations often change, creating new weak points. “As you are adding new layers and employees and technologies, you are bringing in new kinds of exposures that could put your business at risk,” he said.
2. Implement dual approval processes.
A simple strategy, dual approval can have an outsize impact on protecting against fraud by creating oversight. The control requires two separate individuals to sign-off on financial transactions, such as automated clearing house transactions or wire transfers.
The need for oversight extends to any type of business, including family-owned operations. Unfortunately, even the most trusted employee can commit fraud given the right motivations and opportunities. “It’s important to put systems in place over trust,” Jackson said.
3. Play offense.
The best way to defend yourself from external fraud is to prevent it from happening in the first place, Jackson said. Training and security protocols go a long way in this regard.
Ask yourself: Does my business have a review plan to address the most common type of fraud, including phone scams, email scams, and phishing attempts? And just as importantly, “do employees have the tools and training they need to protect my business from these types of fraud?” Jackson said.
A proactive fraud plan starts with up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software. (Updates, while annoying, are crucial, Jackson said, as they include new security features and patches to protect your business.)
To learn more about devising a prevention plan, including proactive steps you can take to protect your business, Jackson recommended meeting with a banker. “These are services your local bank can offer your small business,” he continued. “They are there to support you and help you manage fraud.”
U.S. Bank and its representatives do not provide tax or legal advice. Your tax and financial situation is unique. You should consult your tax and/or legal advisor for advice and information concerning your particular situation.
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