Questions to Ask at the Start of a Fraud Investigation

In order to properly plan a fraud investigation, a fraud examiner needs to be able to ask good questions that extract valuable information about what needs to be done. The specific questions vary with each investigation, but the following are some basic areas that an investigator should strongly consider exploring.

What happened?

  • How did this situation come to light?
  • Who was involved with the discovery?
  • Who is aware that a potential fraud occurred?

Evidence

  • What evidence has already been found?
  • How conclusive is it?
  • Are there multiple pieces of evidence?
  • Might there be other easily discoverable pieces of evidence?
  • How much does the evidence tell us about the methods of fraud and the parties involved?

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Top Ways Fraud is Detected in Companies

Tracy Coenen talks to a group of CPAs about the top ways fraud is detected within companies. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) conducts a survey of its members every two years. It consistently finds that tips from employees, customers, and vendors most commonly uncover fraud within companies. But after that, management review of … Read more Top Ways Fraud is Detected in Companies

Fraud Investigation for Small Firms

Minnesota Society of CPAs Footnote Magazine
February/March 2017

The growth in forensic accounting and fraud investigation specialties has led accounting firms of all sizes to expand their practices to these areas. Experts agree that this practice area will continue to grow for the foreseeable future.

Is it as easy as it sounds to add forensic accounting to your firm’s competencies? Traditional audit staff may have excellent foundational knowledge that could be applied to fraud investigations, but offering consistent and reliable services to clients in the area of forensic accounting will take some work.

Here are areas your firm — especially if it’s small — should focus.

Service focus

It is a simple decision to start providing accounting services. The next step is deciding which specific services to provide. Many types of engagements can fall under the forensic accounting umbrella, so it is important to develop a focus.

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Conducting Internal Fraud Investigations

Fire drill training in grade school always included the mantra, “Stop, drop and roll.” This was the prescribed course of action if you were on fire. Professionals sometimes refer to tragedies in companies as fire drills. When a major internal theft occurs, it is akin to catching on fire, and needs to be met with swift action.

Where there is smoke, there might be fire. There are numerous potential red flags that might point to internal theft – things like missing or altered documentation, numerous unexplained accounting entries, excessive customer complaints about account balances, and disregard or override of procedures.

While one red flag alone does not necessarily mean a fraud has occurred, the presence of numerous red flags increases the suspicion of internal fraud. It is important to quickly identify the red flags, determine who might be responsible, and take quick action to extinguish the problem.

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Sources of Information in Fraud Investigations

Written by Tracy L. Coenen, CPA, CFF

Wisconsin Law Journal

When you think of information in an internal fraud investigation, you most likely think of things like a company’s internal records. These include accounting documents, personnel files, payroll records, accounting system information, and internal memos. While these items are key parts of an internal investigation, they are not the only tools a fraud investigator may use.

Most people don’t think about all the other records available to assist in an investigation. There are many public and non-public records that can aid the investigator in determining who was involved, where the money went, and what the motive for the fraud may have been. These records are invaluable to the investigator, and often play a key role in determining the details of a fraud.

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Internal Investigations and the Use of Auditors and Accountants

When whistleblowers report potential ethics violations within companies, the first step the company must take is an internal investigation. The best internal investigations are independent and led by outside counsel, for a variety of reasons.

But what about the part of the investigation that involves analyzing accounting records, financial statements, and SEC filings? Management often wants to use internal finance professionals or their outside auditors for this task. It seems to make sense to utilize the expertise of people who are already familiar with the company’s finances.

Read moreInternal Investigations and the Use of Auditors and Accountants

Patrick Byrne: Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Patrick Byrne, CEO of Overstock.com (NASDAQ:OSTK) has been on a crusade against naked short selling for a couple of years (or more?). It is currently his position that naked short selling is bad. He confirms his belief in this statement on Overstock.com:

Patrick Byrne is waging a fight with Wall Street over naked short selling. He believes that, through the practice of naked shorting, Wall Street is cheating Main Street America and destroying small companies for a profit. Byrne feels that the SEC is failing to protect retail investors and small companies because it has been captured by Wall Street, and that the New York financial press is similarly co-opted. Byrne believes that the SEC’s efforts to eliminate this abusive practice are falling short, not simply for Overstock (which has itself been on the Regulation SHO Threshold list for over two years), but in a way that creates the possibility of systemic risk for our financial world.

So naked short selling is an “abusive practice”? (Notice that there are no qualifiers in the statement above. It simply says that naked shorting is bad.)

Read morePatrick Byrne: Do As I Say, Not As I Do.

Airlines likely to increase fares due to “congestion fees”

Last week I posted on WalletPop about a proposed “congestion fee” that airlines would have to pay at airports. Right now they pay a landing fee based upon the weight of the plane. With the congestion fee, they would instead pay a fee based upon the day of week, time of day, and congestion at … Read more Airlines likely to increase fares due to “congestion fees”

Milwaukee Police Department stops asking about immigration status

This is crazy. Using an “it’s not our job” excuse, the Milwaukee Police Department now has a policy that police officers will not ask about immigration status.

“Community activists” say that people who are stopped for traffic violations or crimes shouldn’t be asked about immigration status because it’s “unrelated.” (I don’t know how often the breaking of federal laws is deemed “unrelated” and therefore police should turn a blind eye.)

It’s not just Milwaukee that’s doing this. Other police departments are caving to the pressure to not ask about immigration status.

Read moreMilwaukee Police Department stops asking about immigration status