If all the companies in the world were to add up the financial losses they incur because of workplace fraud, it would come to $3.5 trillion, and about half of those affected would have no chance of recovering what they lost. Those facts were among the findings of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE)'s latest report on occupational fraud and abuse. "What is perhaps most striking about the data we gathered is how consistent the patterns of fraud are around the globe and over time," stated James Ratley, president and CEO of ACFE, in an association release. "We believe this consistency reaffirms the value of our research efforts and the reliability of our findings as truly representative of the characteristics of occupational fraudsters and their schemes." As only the second ACFE survey to include data on countries outside the United States, the report includes nearly 1,400 cases of occupational fraud in 94 countries during 2010 and 2011. Major findings show that the median loss experienced by companies was $140,000, although more than 20 percent of the cases lost at least $1 million. Fraud schemes had a median duration of 18 months and were most likely to be detected by a tip from an employee within the same organization as the perpetrator. More cases were reported by such insider information than other methods of discovery. Fraud characteristics
Anti-fraud training programs and stringent background checks at all levels of employment were found to reduce workplace losses and the duration of fraud schemes. According to the report, worker education was seen as a major deterrent as employees and management become better able to identify patterns of behavior that are most likely to indicate the possibility of fraudulent activity. The ACFE reported that the location of fraud schemes mattered little. Most of the activities, characteristics of the people found responsible for them and antifraud controls that were in place at the time were similar. However, when fraud was committed by company owners and executives the cost to the firm was higher - a median loss of $573,000. When managers were involved, the amount was $180,000 and those frauds committed by employees caused a median loss of $60,000. External audits were able to uncover only 3 percent of the frauds reported to ACFE. As a result, the organization recommended that additional controls be put in place, such as instituting a "whistle blower" policy that rewards those who bring fraudulent activities to the attention of company officials.