What do you think what is fraud?
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Against Fraud held a seminar for Midlands executives last month
West Midlands police two senior fraud inves~s liaison officers work.1y with businesses and )re`s University Liver1 is developing a fraud ent c6iitse.Fqr compa`Where howeVer the ponse is to turn to a ?stigator.
trge accountancy firms msic accounting diviternatively businesses to a security specialist. company Kroll Associates forecasts the international fraud and investigations business will quadruple in value from $55bn $140bn. One reason for this is awarenss of fraud; another is increased pressure on police force budgets says John Beadle managhig director of the investigatory division of Capitol Group a UK security specialist.
Capitol advises on a range of issues from security guards to auditing stock control IT systems and copyright protection. "Any system that relies on an individual`s honesty will fail it is essential to build in checks and crosschecks. Simple preventative steps can have an inimeasurable effect" Mr Beadle says.
An important step is to conduct a health check of security systems he adds. "One established business gave its own name to staff to use as a computer access code. Another invested in CCTV surveillance equipment but kept the monitors in a cupboard unwatched." .
Recruitment policy is also vital. Estimates suggest one in four people either lies or misrepresents a significant detail when applying for a job. Investigations specialists can be used for employee screening. Soon however companies will be able to do more checking themselves.
"Most employers can now only ask someone if they have a criminal record and take them at their word" says AnneMarie Thompson a lawyer with the employment and pensions division of Eversheds the legal firm. The exception is where a job might involve working with young or vulnerable people.
"There is a lot of concern about the current system" she says adding that employers want greater protection. The 1997 Police Act however included proposals for a Criminal Records Agency which is likely to launch in 18 months. This would allow job applicants to obtain certificates detailing their record which they could then show employers.
Surveillance is another step. Some companies position cameras on computer equipment while others employ investigators to go undercover and work alongside staff. Such techniques should be used in moderation Mr Beadle warns: "There are civil liberty issues. And if you overuse surveillance it can become more difficult to do successfully."
He suggests companies should create a riskaware culture: `Nore often than not fraud is detected by accident. Many companies only know it has happened when the negative effects hit their bottom line. The biggest problem is many still see security as an irksome overhead rather than a shrewd investment."
Advice from the experts
¥ Be aware that most losses through fraud come from a company`s staff rather than from customers.
¥Regularly "health check" your company`s systems and procedures to identify areas of potential risk. Analyse your recruitment policy: check all references to identity potential problems early. Assess your likely exposure to fraud: potential risk areas include auditing stock control financial management and IT security.
¥Introduce a simple preventative routine before a fraudster strikes for example by limiting access to different parts of a building or computer system or by installing surveillance equipment in dispatch.
¥ If you feel surveillance is necessary seek advice from a professional there are a number of established investigations/surveillance specialists that provide service business or from your local police fraud squad.
¥Develop a strategy address not only how to detect fraud but how to deal with it. If fraud does occur act fast and treat perpetrators equally whateve their seniority.
¥Consider the benefits of go public to broadcast a clear message that fraud will not be tolerated.
¥Do not turn a blind eye to smalltime pilfering it creates dishonest culture that may escalate.