Detecting Billing Schemes

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Employees may commit fraud against their employers by getting the employer to improperly disburse funds. One way this could happen is through an improper check or electronic disbursement. Another way is through a shell company scheme, whereby the employee sets up a fake vendor which issues invoices to the company for products or services that are not actually provided to the company.

These types of billing schemes could be detected with some of the following techniques:

    • Analyze disbursements, looking for many large round amounts, or amounts falling just below a threshold that requires additional approval for payment.
    • Look for unusually large expenses, unexplained variances in expenses between years, or expenses that exceed budgeted amounts. Billing schemes may inflate expenses enough to cause one or all of these comparisons to yield questionable results.
    • Examine the financial statements for variances in expenses that should track predictably with revenue. Cost of goods sold is a popular account in which to conceal theft via billing schemes because of the high level of activity in this account. If the account varies significantly from expected values when compared to revenue, however, this might indicate a billing scheme.
    • Cross-check addresses of employees and vendors, looking for exact matches or close matches.
    • Compare vendor addresses to mail drop address databases to check for businesses that may not have a legitimate location.

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Documents For a Business Lifestyle Analysis

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Doing a lifestyle analysis on a business during a divorce  can be very important to find out the truth about the numbers. It involves going down to the detailed transaction level to look for clues about what has really happened with the money.

What documents do you need? When a closely held business is being evaluated in connection with a family law case, the following business-related documents may be requested: Continue reading

The Face of Forensic Accounting

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In October 2017, Tracy Coenen appeared in Milwaukee Magazine’s Faces of Milwaukee feature. What a fun piece to revisit!

When you need to find lost or hidden money, forensic accountant Tracy Coenen is the detective you want on your side. She doesn’t just add up the numbers, she digs into the details to find out what really happened with the money and who has it.

Consider her a financial crime fighter: part accountant, part fraud investigator. Tracy utilizes background checks, spreadsheets, and financial paper trails to trace money through a complex web of entities and accounts. She uses these tools and more to investigate cases of corporate fraud and embezzlement, calculate damages in business deals gone bad, and help divorcing spouses figure out how to divide the money equitably.

It’s a task Tracy isn’t afraid to take on as she uncovers deals made in the dark and brings them to light. Companies find out who within their own trusted network took their money and how the crime was committed.

Divorcing spouses find money that was hidden and receive a fair share of the assets. Along with being a Certified Public Accountant, Tracy is certified in financial forensics, has a degree in criminology, and holds a Master of Business Administration. She has written four books on forensic accounting and fraud investigation, and has taught numerous forensic accounting courses to accountants and attorneys. More importantly, Tracy has gotten her hands dirty making sense of complicated financial situations for everyone from jilted spouses to ripped-off investors.

It’s a thankless job sometimes, being the one to reveal betrayal and deceit and outright fraud, but for Tracy, it’s a life dedicated to living in the truth, and finding it by any means necessary.

Small Fraud Investigation Firms

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Firms of all sizes are interested in expanding their practices to include forensic accounting and fraud investigation. Experts agree: This practice area is growing and will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Yet adding forensic accounting to a firm’s portfolio of services might not be as easy as it sounds. While traditional audit staff might have a good foundational knowledge to branch out into fraud investigation, offering reliable service to clients in this area takes a little more work.

Focusing Services
While the decision to provide forensic accounting services may seem simple, the next step is deciding specifically which services to provide. There are many types of matters that may fall under the forensic accounting umbrella, and it is important to develop an appropriate focus.

A firm’s services could be geared toward a variety of fraud-related matters, including corporate embezzlement, financial statement fraud, and insurance claims fraud. The business could alternately be focused on litigation matters like contract disputes, shareholder lawsuits, business valuation, and bankruptcy consulting. There are many more types of cases that could fall under one or both of these headings, so it’s clear that there are a great deal of choices to be made. Continue reading

Big Firm Advantage in Forensic Accounting

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When companies have big problems, they usually bring out the big guns. The benefits of using large law firms, audit firms, and other professional service firms are undeniable. These firms offer a depth of experience that is invaluable, and they have seemingly unlimited resources in terms of manpower. A large firm often has the ability to mobilize an engagement team quickly, and can bring in experts from around the world.

Does bigger mean better? Certainly the perception exists that larger firms provide better services. No one can fault an executive who chooses a big firm when trouble is brewing. There is an undeniable comfort level that comes with the big firms because they have established reputations and many resources. Even if the project goes poorly, no one can fault the executive who chose the large firm. Continue reading

Prenup In a Box

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Last month, a company called HelloPrenup was featured on Shark Tank and received an investment of $150,000 Nirav Tolia and Kevin O’Leary in exchange for 15% ownership. Maybe as important as the investment itself was the exposure the company got by being on the show.

The founders of HelloPrenup are divorce lawyer Julia Rodgers and software engineer Sarabeth Jaffe. Their concept is simple….. the website creates a prenuptial agreement for a couple based on their answers to a lengthy questionnaire and thorough financial disclosures. You get a prenup without having to visit (and pay for) a lawyer.

The company launched in 2020, relaunched in early 2021, and only had $20,000 in lifetime sales as of July 2021. So this is very new. But the Shark Tank appearance has increased website traffic massively, and of course, sales have skyrocketed too. Continue reading

Reconstructing Books and Records For a Tax Audit

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You are being audited. These are some of the most dreaded words an individual or business will ever hear from a state or federal tax auditor. They invoke fear, panic, and sometimes anger.

Most of all, they create a need for documentation. Every number could be scrutinized. That means documentation must be produced to support the amount of each expense and the business purpose of the item.

Some of us are meticulous in our documentation, but if you are like most taxpayers, you have pockets of misplaced or destroyed data. Even worse, you may be in a situation where documentation was completely destroyed by a fire or flood. If you don’t have documentation, does that mean your deductions are automatically disallowed? Not necessarily. Continue reading

Preventing Church Fraud

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There may be nothing more disheartening in the world of fraud investigation than a church employee caught embezzling. Unfortunately, there are fairly regular news reports of financial fraud at churches. Fraud hits churches hard. Many churches operate on shoestring budgets to begin with. A sizable fraud can put a church on the brink of financial collapse.

And it’s appalling to think this is happening in a place that many view as the most sacred and the most likely to attract honest people. Unfortunately, churches and other non-profits aren’t immune to fraud. In fact, they often set themselves up to be even more vulnerable to fraud than your average business.

Diverting Donations

Historically, churches were often run largely by pastors who had little to no business training. But the time has come for churches to get serious about operating like real businesses. Continue reading