[Emcee] I'd like to welcome everyone to the second in our SunTrust Best Practices webinar series, Don't Let Fraud Steal Your Business. These webinars are informed by research conducted with small business owners across the country, and by our work with SunTrust clients. Protecting a business from fraud should be an important topic for many business owners. Businesses need to be alert to fraud schemes and need to be actively protecting their businesses and assets. We're excited to delve into this important topic. Today's presentation maybe accessed under the Resources tab on your webinar console and downloaded from there.
Also, listed is an accompanying best practices research paper on protecting your business. Please type your questions into the Q&A section of the webinar console at any time during the presentation. We will collect questions and address them during the Q&A session at the end of the webinar.
A recording of the webinar will be available to you after the session, if you want to share today's lessons with others. To lead our webinar, we welcome David Hiller and David Sawyer. David has led the creation of SunTrust Small Business Best Practices research and website. Dave Sawyer is a forensic accountant, certified fraud examiner, and financial crimes investigator. His ability to help companies avoid fraud is informed by having seen the results and causes in many fraud schemes across a wide range of companies. David Hiller, I'll turn it over to you.
[David Hiller] Thank you, welcome everyone. I'd like to remind you that SunTrust is a purpose driven company. Our purpose is lighting the way to financial well-being. This means we're focused on helping our clients, both consumer clients and business owners, take actions that increase their financial confidence and well-being. As part of our commitment to small business owners, we've published a Small Business Best Practices guide that covers straightforward action steps across six areas of financial management. We've developed an online financial assessment quiz for business owners. We've written a set of in-depth Best Practices reports, and we have a variety of resources like this webinar that focus on specific topics.
Several months ago, we completed a nationwide survey of small business owners to understand how they view their current financial health, their business and financial priorities, and the action steps they're planning to take over the next 12 months. The survey had some very interesting findings including how business owners are protecting their businesses from fraud, and that will be our focus today. There are three main points we'd like you to take away from this discussion. First, fraud poses a significant risk to every small business. Second, most small business owners don't fully understand the nature of the risk or how to prevent it. And third, there are some basic action steps you can take to mitigate risk.
We're very fortunate to have David Sawyer with us today. David is an expert in fraud risk and prevention, and he'll share valuable insights and practical recommendations that you can implement. Looking at the results of our survey, a couple of findings stand out. First, fraud affects small businesses, maybe more than many people realize. Our SunTrust research shows that within the past two years, 15% of business owners experience one or more fraud events. However, about half of business owners say they're not very concerned about fraud, and 79% haven't taken basic steps to reduce fraud like separating functions, maintaining data security, reconciling accounts, and some other things we'll discuss today. When we ask business owners about their priorities, protecting the business from fraud ranked second to last. David Sawyer, what do you make of this?
[David Sawyer] Dave, the statistics are really telling. Business owners would probably pay a lot more attention if they knew that 5% of their revenue is lost as a result of fraud, according to recent studies from the ACFE, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Now, let's just put that in perspective. If you have a business that generates a million dollars in gross revenue in a year, you could expect to lose $50,000 in fraud based on these statistics. And that $50,000 goes straight to the bottom line, and that's a significant portion of net income. For instance, if you have a business that's running at a 10% net income level, you just lost half of your net income for the year, $50,000.
And it's no excuse, but I think business owners do not pay as much attention to fraud and white-collar crime, and the risk there is very natural. Business owners are not trained control specialist, and they're likely focused on growing sales and profits and putting in place good business operations. But just because it's "natural and easy" doesn't make it right. Reducing the risk of fraud, we lean on the axiom that an ounce of prevention can prevent a pound or more of pain.
[David Hiller] I want to reiterate David's point that small business owners are not fraud prevention experts and that's exactly why we put together this webinar today to outline simple steps to help you better address your business's vulnerabilities. So, let's dig deeper into the impact of fraud on a small business. As our survey research indicates, 30% of fraud incidents were greater than $10,000 and 10% were greater than $50,000. Every business is different, but as David Sawyer pointed out a $50,000 fraud would be very significant for most businesses. When fraud happens, you're likely not to recover the full amount. You may get some back, but 25% of victims eventually recovered less than half of the fraud amount and 14% got nothing back.
So, while monetary losses can be significant, the secondary impacts of fraud can be even worse. Fraud can distract you and your team from growing your business. Fraud that becomes known to your clients can damage your reputation and cause them to lose trust in your business. Fraud can disrupt relationships with clients, suppliers, and partners. If they feel you don't have tight security and controls in place, they may be reluctant to continue doing business with you. There's also the emotional stress that comes from dealing with fraud investigations and the feeling that you've been robbed. So, David, can you elaborate a little more on the damage that can be caused by fraud?
[David Sawyer] Dave, you make a great point because business owners need to not only look at the monetary impact, the tangible losses that are in the business, but they have to look at the intangible impacts, effects, and losses as well. For an example, I recently worked with law enforcement investigating a case where a non-for-profit organization had been a victim of fraud and non-for-profits as any organization they depend on their donors who trust them to take care of their money, and put it to good use. Now, this fraud involved fictitious vendors and shell companies. Naturally, it involved money laundering and the loss was about a quarter of a million dollars, $250,000.
[David Sawyer] The fraud is a result naturally, the natural outgrowth of that was that it caused donations to shrink and it put the organization in a bit of a precarious position and unable to fulfill its primary core focus and mission. And, like that non-for-profit, for-profit businesses are not so much different because the financial health of a small business depends on good stewardship of funds, the tangible aspect of things, as well as its reputation. The more intangible aspect of a business that you can't really touch and feel but you can certainly see it. But also be cognizant of the cost of cleaning up after a fraud, software removing viruses, you got to rebuild your systems, your internal controls, you might have to add additional customer support and those costs, the collateral damage if you will, can often dwarf the original cost, the monetary cost, of the original fraud.
[David Sawyer] And the natural feeling when a victim of fraud has experienced it is that they feel very vulnerable. They feel violated. And anyone who's, for instance, anyone who's ever been burglarized, will know that feeling for sure. And moving forward, as we move forward through the presentation, the policies and protections you put in place do make a difference. Often the protections and trip wires can help you find a fraud faster. It can mean that more money is recovered for the company that did put protections in place such as fidelity bonds, crime insurance, data loss protection. About 86%, to Dave Hiller's point, 86% recovered something and about three-fourths actually recovered more than half of the funds. Those are some very important statistics that should be heeded and not ignored.
[David Hiller] I think we're starting to understand a little bit more about the seriousness of fraud. Let's take a quick look at where fraud comes from. When small business owners, experience fraud, 42% of the fraud came from check fraud, another 41% from credit cards, about 20% from web-based fraud. David, can you outline some of the major types of fraud?
[David Sawyer] The slide is very good. It would help us to kind of walk through the slide definitions on the website. Occupational fraud is employee theft - that's internal theft of business assets and resources. Phishing attacks, social engineering, and internet attacks often come from the outside. The phishing is emails coming from what appears to be a reputable business or company and it induces, it invites employees to reveal sensitive information, passwords, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, and it puts the business, your business, at risk for exposure to fraud and being a victim there.
Social engineering, that's psychological and manipulation that we see. It can also come in the form of social media and confidential information may be divulged through that means as well. Internet attack, that's a takeover or ransoming of websites. Data can be obtained via phishing, spyware, and malware. But what happens is they find a crack in the door, weakness in the system, the cyber thief or the cybercriminal and they get inside, they expand their privileges and they take out the company's vital information, not only the financial information but they may also take away the trade secrets as well, customer list, and so forth.
We might want to talk about the fact that small businesses experience fraud at about twice the rate of larger companies. And there are several reasons for this. First, small companies don't have enough people to implement the proper separation of duties. That's a primary internal control. It's separation of incompatible functions. Often there's a lot of trust in small organizations, they seem like family, but unfortunately with a lot of trust there may not be a lot of verifying to counterbalance that trust within the organization. Second, small businesses really don't have the resources to prevent fraud and white-collar crime or occupational abuse. The resources are not only in money, they can be in time to apply the fraud prevention techniques, policies, and procedures.
The simple truth is owners are more than likely busy selling their product or their service and providing the attention to the customers that they need, and they may very well not be putting enough energy and attention into fraud prevention, detection, and deterrence. Finally, it could just be a lack of expertise to build properties with checks and balances to protect your vital technology and data, let alone your financial information. I guess the bottom line and the takeaway from the discussion in this slide is that the fraudster, the white-collar criminal, may be willing to execute smaller crimes on a softer target than to try to penetrate the more robust security that's found at a larger firm. Don't think that being smaller necessarily protects you.
[David Hiller] Let's summarize the insights from this first section. Fraud happens, happens regularly, and it could damage and distract your business. Business owners don't understand the risks and often don't have adequate protection in place. Remember that it's the small businesses, not the larger ones, that are the biggest targets for many different fraud schemes simply because they're more vulnerable. You have to work harder to overcome the natural vulnerability to fraud that smaller businesses face. Now, let's turn to the five steps to protect your company from fraud.
As we move into these action steps, I want to emphasize these are fairly basic standard steps that don't take a lot of time and effort to implement. While every business owner naturally enjoy spending time generating revenue or delivering their product or service to clients, we strongly encourage you to set aside some time and resources to protect your business from fraud risk. We'll go through each one of these steps individually over the next several minutes, so let's get on to the first one.
Let's start with step one. Get inside the mind of the fraudster. Fraudsters are looking for vulnerabilities, finding new weaknesses, and inventing new schemes. Our four steps after this one will go a long way toward protecting you, but there's no substitute for taking a critical look at your business, the points of vulnerability, both internal and external. David, can you elaborate?
[David Sawyer] That’s right. We're are going to work on teaching you about the weaknesses and how criminals think. I think that's one of the proactive steps that we can take in this exercise. They tell you a little bit about those who studies fraud, who investigates fraud. The forensic accountant, they handle not only fraud prevention and detection, but bankruptcy situations, valuation situations, even family law and computer forensics. The certified fraud examiner is focused specifically on investigating white collar crime and fraud, identifying fraud risk, and focused on prevention and detection, methods, and techniques. The financial crimes investigator helps companies uncover significant issues in white-collar crime and also assists with law enforcement. All of these could serve as an expert witness in litigation support and determining economic damages.
The forensic accountant, the financial crimes investigator, have to have knowledge in a lot of different areas from internal controls all the way to investigative techniques and psychology of the white-collar criminal as well. All of our work starts though, its foundational, as we look at the financial management of the company. Look at your balance sheet, your income statement, your statement of cash flows, to find the clues, if you will, on what's going on with your company or could be going wrong with your company. This information gets used in many different ways. As I mentioned before, much of our work deals with internal fraud. For example, we recently had a company that, there was abuse of the payroll system. Certain employees were inflating hours and pay rates.
There were some fictitious employees involved, ghost employees. And another fraud involved skimming of revenues coming into the company before they even reached the bank statement or the bank. Even another company that I can think of that comes to mind, there was abuse of credit cards, and there were items in there such as rent, utilities, clothing, food, and entertainment that were used for personal purposes, not for the purposes of the business. But those are some of the types of risk areas that you may be vulnerable to in your organization.
What is fraud? Let's boil it down to the definitions and the characteristics. It's often clandestine. It always violates trust. It usually provides a financial benefit for the perpetrator and most importantly for the context of our discussion today, it costs the victim company losses in assets, revenues, or reserves. And to even narrow our focus to internal fraud, for example, when working with a company in a lawsuit for a company that's involved in the construction industry, and one of the owners had been using company funds to finance the construction of his own personal residence, and this cost the company more than $700,000 at least over a period of about three years.
In addition to the negative impacts on company financial position, it also placed the company and the officers at risk for tax evasion because these expenses were run through their income statement. Now, there's a host of different external fraud schemes as well. There's plenty of examples that we can talk about such as Ransomware. Recently, the City of Atlanta, it's pretty close to home, was attacked by malware and had demands to pay $50,000 in Bitcoin. Now the city didn't pay that, but they did spend about $2.6 million in support, backup services, IT contractors, software vendors, extra customer support, in addition to PR. It won't take you long to find plenty of other examples in the past few years. And the list is long. TJ Maxx, Equifax, Home Depot, Anthem Health Insurance, and others. Those are just to name a few.
As we continue to profile the fraudster, the white-collar criminal, let's look at what we call the fraud triangle. This was developed by Donald Cressey in the early 1900s. And it has motive, opportunity, and rationalization. Now, motive is a perceived pressure that the fraudster may be experiencing. There's a laundry list of what might motivate someone to steal from a company. But when you put it down into basic categories, it's either need or greed. Rationalization is, the fraudster, in their mind, they somehow justified that it's okay for them to commit the fraud, like they deserve it, like the company owes it to them.
And in every single one of these cases, the fraudster has to weigh that the benefits of doing this are going to exceed the cost of doing it or the consequences of doing it. Opportunity is simply when internal controls break down within the system. What does the fraudster look like? They often look just like you and me really. As I looked down the list of these current projects that I'm working on right now, investigations that I'm working on, all of them involve some kind of internal fraud scheme, skimming of revenue, setting up false vendors, dummy employees, abusing credit cards. The fraudster, the white-collar criminal, could be the person sitting in the cube right next to you. More than likely, they're a long-term employee. He or she may be your top sales person. It could even be your business partner, as we've mentioned in a case example previously.
[David Hiller] Well, thank you David. That's a very, very interesting look into the mind of a fraudster. And I think understanding that will benefit all of us. Let's look at step number two, and that is to eliminate checks and "electronify" payments where possible. One of the biggest sources of fraud is checks, probably because it's so easy to execute. It could involve altered checks, setting up false vendors to move money out of the company, or simply stealing blank checks. David, can you tell us a little bit more about what you're seeing in check fraud?
[David Sawyer] Dave, the good news is that, we're seeing less and less check fraud from the check stock being stolen. But we have to bear in mind that often check fraud can come in the form of counterfeiting. You don't have to steal the check stock anymore because you can just recreate the checks including company logos, the account numbers, the routing numbers. You can do it with a laser printer in the comfort of your own home. You can get blank check stock at office supplies stores. We really see less of it because there's just fewer and fewer checks used because more electronic funds transfers are being used now. Companies have gotten smart and converted many of the payments to electronic transactions, where they're paying by card or via ACH.
There might be a high incidence of check fraud, but there are just fewer physical checks. Using a bank's online bill pay, delivers payment either via ACH or a check printed by the bank to the vendor, but even when a check is printed there are more safeguards since vendor setup and payment has more robust security around it and the amounts are printed and mailed directly from the bank with less opportunity for it to be altered.
Some companies are using what's called positive pay or reverse positive pay banking services. These allow you to better check to make sure that checks paid are the ones that you actually issued and also don't forget about payroll checks. Many companies have gone to direct deposit, and that dramatically reduces the fraud risk in the time for handling checks through their system. Direct deposit often makes payroll computation reporting and information access for both the company and the employee a whole lot less time consuming. As you're using more credit cards, procurement cards, for payment and taking advantage of setting limits on those and monitoring that reporting regularly, it sounds basic, but it is absolutely essential to preventing fraud in your organization.
[David Hiller] Before we transition to the next step, I'd like to touch on a couple of the services that David mentioned that are offered by most banks. Positive pay is a service where the business sends the bank a file of authorized checks, and then the bank matches incoming checks against the account number, check number, and dollar amount of each check to make sure they were authorized by the company. Reverse positive pay allows the business to review the previous day's check images or ACH payments, validate that they're accurate, and then reject anything that isn't. Online bill pay sends payments directly to vendors on your behalf. ACH is short for automated clearing house and it's an inexpensive way to send payments electronically.
Let's move to point number three, build fraud-resistance into your business. Looking at fraud sources, 37% of fraud is internal. However, most businesses haven't taken even simple steps to protect themselves. For example, 85% don't separate duties and key processes, 79% don't educate employees about fraud, and 50% don't do basic statement reviews and reconciliations. David, what do you see companies doing to build fraud resistance inside the company?
[David Sawyer] Dave, creating a company culture that prevents and watches for the signs of fraud is a huge lever in fraud protection. Let's take a closer look at the key steps. Let's start on step one, it starts by doing your homework in hiring employees, so you get the right kind of people in your organization. Taking time to do multi-state background checks and checking references pays off. Checking people's social media can even be helpful. And if you don't take the time to carefully assess an employee and that employee's background upfront, how can you be surprised with how they behave later?
Secondly, once the employees are onboard, teaching employees about fraud, giving them awareness about it, the red flags to look out for, how it can be prevented, what it looks like, how to detect it can train your employees to be the eyes and ears of protection in your organization. Employees can learn how to build fraud resistive processes and can consider fraud risk in everything they do, so that's not just on your shoulders and up to you in carrying out your job functions.
Finally, forensic audits, fraud risk assessments conducted to scrub an area for the signs of fraud and white-collar crime can also uncover issues before they, metastasize within your organization. I think those are some pretty good steps to get us started from start to finish. I can't mention separation of duties enough. This can be a challenge in small companies where you have fewer people to spread out the work. Think about separating these key functions within your organization. The access, who has access to your cash, inventory, and other assets. How about the approvals? Have you separated the approval for your transactions? Is there an accounting trail? How about analysis of your books and transactions?
Look back at what's involved in the audit or the review or the compilation and the basics of reconciliation within your normal business and accounting functions. Remember that monitoring your financial statements and detailed reports, looking for trends, and even performing simple account reconciliations can go a long way toward detecting any issues. Now the big companies can't always do this, but the advantage that an owner has in a small company is that in short order, you can review and monitor lots of detail, whether credit card transactions are matching the receipts or the check images.
Don't forget to look at purchase orders and invoices in the vendor processes for accounts payable. The funds that flow to them, to these vendors, are susceptible to fraud so look carefully at contract and bid packages. I just can't emphasize enough that fraud resistance ought to be proactive. The reactive approach once the horses have left the barn and the toothpaste gets out of the tube is a much more costly endeavor.
[David Hiller] Thank you, David. Those are some very, very practical steps that any business owner can take. Let's turn to action step number four, and that's related to data and computer security. 52% of fraud is cyber security fraud according to our research. Of that cyber fraud, 20% comes from web-based attacks, 18% from malware, which are programs designed to damage or disable your computer systems, and 14% from phishing or social engineering designed to fool you or your employees into revealing information or passwords or providing access to your systems. David, can you provide some additional thoughts on your work, based on your work with data security?
[David Sawyer] Dave, this whole cyber fraud, cybercrime phenomenon, it can really put a company's intellectual property at risk for theft. That can be one of the most costly issues. The theft of trade secrets is a big risk. Now, we're not talking about the secret formula for Coca-Cola, but in any business, it can be your customer list, it can be loss of competitive advantage. The way that the cybercriminal gets at a company is inserting Trojan horses, malware, and getting access to what we call PII, personally identifiable information, that your customers have provided and they expect you as a business owner in your company to store that information securely within your system.
Another area is when you're a subcontractor to a larger company, your large partners and business alliances have high expectations that your data security is matching theirs. You can't afford to lose a customer by being the weak link in the chain. You may recall also that the huge Target breach, a few years ago, came to access to security vulnerabilities in a small subcontractor to Target. Take the key steps. I can't say enough; I can't stress enough. That education of employees about avoiding phishing schemes and these data access tricks, social engineering. Don't click the link if it's an email from someone you don't recognize.
Fraudsters are notorious for pretending to be a software support company and getting password access. They also disguise themselves as banks. I've seen that before as well. Employee education is your main line of defense, set up firewalls, virus protections and encryptions, secure passwords, change passwords often can also be a great internal control. Also, any other security that your IT staff or consultants may recommend. It would be helpful. And if you don't have IT expertise, make sure you reach out to IT experts who can help you provide the tips to protect your company.
[David Hiller] Our first four action steps dealt with identifying and preventing fraud. Action step number five is how to control damage. Most business owners tell us they have lots of insurance, 76% of companies have had some type of theft claim in the past five years, and most general insurance doesn't cover fraud. Only 16% of business owners have data breach insurance. David, how should a business owner structure their business insurance specifically and what types of insurance do they need to deal with fraud?
[David Sawyer] Dave, to the business owners on the webinar, you really need special insurance types and riders to cover you from fraud losses. We're talking about fidelity bonds, data breach insurance, employee dishonesty insurance policies or crime insurance, those are all specifically designed to protect you from fraud. I've been working with a computer services company on an investigation who just experienced the misuse of a company credit card. And we identified about $60,000 in losses as a result of this fraud. Now, this company, unfortunately, didn't have theft insurance or a rider to reimburse them for this, the cost of this fraud loss and that's a huge loss, very sizeable substantial loss for a company in this size.
The basics of keeping your personal finances separated from your books of your business and the accounting records of your business is so vitally important and critical. If you have to quickly recover from a fraud event, you don't want to have to take your time in the middle of this recovery from fraud to separate out your business expenses from your personal expenses. Further, you don't want your personal fund at risk either from this fraud that affected your business or tied up when you may need them to support you when your business has already taken a hit and may not be producing the cash flow that you need.
[David Hiller] We’ve heard a lot of great information today and as we round out the webinar, let's quickly walk through some of the practical action steps that we've covered today. Reconcile accounts regularly.
[David Sawyer] Dave, I just can't emphasize this enough. When you think about it, it's really simple to do and it's just a very critical foundational fraud detection tool.
[David Hiller] Secure your blank checks.
[David Sawyer] That's also, not only from a physical security standpoint, it's good to keep logs and registers of the checks that have been issued and like we said before, reconcile those accounts regularly.
[David Hiller] That's right. Pay electronically.
[David Sawyer] Through the years, this has become easier and easier using online banking or links between your financial software and your bank. By doing this, you're going to reduce the volume of fraud-prone paper checks.
[David Hiller] Very easy step to take there. Secure your hardware and software. Select the right insurance for your business. Educate your employees about fraud.
[David Sawyer] If I can say something about that. The fraud resistant organization starts with you, the owner or the shareholder as the leader, and paying attention to fraud risk and asking the right questions, it sets the tone at the top and the culture towards fraud for your company.
[David Hiller] And, really related to that, research who you hire. Separate duties.
[David Sawyer] While this might be harder to do in a smaller company, knowing where your gaps are and where the separation of duties should occur allows you to use more active monitoring and reconciliations to cover your weaknesses.
[David Hiller] Conduct fraud audits.
[David Sawyer] If you're just doing a compilation of your financial statements right now, you might consider stepping up to a review which includes more analytical procedures, may not be a full blown audit, as CPAs define the term, but doing more forensic-style analysis that would identify red flags and just doing more detailed study and due diligence around sensitive information and/or your relationships with your clients or customers and as well as your vendors too.
[David Hiller] And finally, separate your business and personal finances. These are steps that every small business owner can take to mitigate fraud risk. As we move to the question and answer portion of today's webinar, I'd like to remind everyone that additional resources are available at the small business best practices site within suntrust.com, and in particular, there are more detailed action guides covering each of the steps to protect your business from fraud. Let's move to our question and answer session.
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SunTrust Robinson Humphrey is the trade name for the corporate and investment banking services of Truist Financial Corporation and its subsidiaries, including SunTrust Robinson Humphrey, Inc., member FINRALink opens a new window and SIPCLink opens a new window.
Thank you for choosing SunTrust now Truist. We welcome the opportunity to serve your financial needs. While SunTrust and BB&T have merged to become Truist, both institutions will continue to offer independent product lines for a period of time. This may include differing underwriting guidelines, product features, terms, fees, and pricing.
Our friendly teammates at your local BB&T branches will be happy to walk you through their products. You can also learn more by contacting them at 1-800-BANK-BBT or BBT.com.