FRAUD RED FLAGS TOOL
1. OPPORTUNITY RED FLAGS
Fraud Conducted By Employees Against The Company
• Familiarity with operations (including cover-up capabilities and in a position of trust)
• Close association with suppliers and other key people
• A firm that does not inform employees about the rules or the action taken to combat fraud
• Rapid turnover of key employees either by quitting or firing
• No mandatory vacations, periodic rotations, or transfers of key employees
• Inadequate personnel-screening policies when hiring new employees to fill positions of trust
• An absence of explicit and uniform personnel policies
• No maintenance of accurate personnel records of dishonest acts or disciplinary actions
• Executive disclosures and examinations not required
• A dishonest or overly dominant management
• Operating on a crisis basis
• No attention paid to details
• Unrealistic productivity measurements
• Poor compensation practices
• A lack of internal security
• Inadequate training programs
Fraud Conducted By Individuals On Behalf Of The Company
• Related party transactions
• A complex business structure
• No effective internal auditing staff
• A highly computerized firm
• A firm in atypical or “hot” industries
• A firm that uses several different auditing firms or changes auditors often
• A firm that is reluctant to give auditors needed data
• A firm that uses several different legal firms or changes legal counsels often
• A firm that uses an unusually large number of different banks, none of which can see the entire picture
• Continuous problems with various regulatory agencies
• Large year-end and/or unusual transactions
• An inadequate internal control system or no enforcement of the existing internal controls
• Unduly liberal accounting practices
• Poor accounting records and inadequate staffing in the accounting department
• A firm that inadequately discloses questionable or unusual accounting practices
Some circumstances that might contribute to fraud include:
Weak internal control environment
- Management does not emphasize the role of strong internal controls
- Management does not prosecute or punish identified embezzlers
- Management does not have a clear position about conflicts of interest
- Highly placed executives are less than prudent or restrained on expenditures for travel and entertainment, furnishings of offices, gifts to visitors and directors, etc.
- Internal auditing does not have authority to investigate certain executive activities involving heavy “personal” expenditures
- Accounting policies and procedures are on the lax or loose side
2. PERSONAL CHARACTERISTIC RED FLAGS
Warning Signals Should Go Off When Employees Evidence Characteristics Such As:
• Rationalization of contradictory behavior
• Lack of a strong code of personal ethics
• A wheeler-dealer personality
• Lack of stability
• A strong desire to beat the system
• A criminal or questionable background
• A poor credit rating and financial status
3. SITUATIONAL PRESSURE RED FLAGS
Fraud Committed By Employees Against The Company
• Significant observed changes from past behavior patterns
• High personal debts or financial losses
• Inadequate income for lifestyle
• Extensive stock market or other speculation behavior
• Excessive gambling
• Undue family, company, or community expectations
• Excessive use of alcohol or drugs
• Perceived inequities in the organization
• Resentment of superiors and frustration with job
• Peer group pressures
• Undue desire for self‑enrichment and personal gain
• Emotional trauma in home life or work life
Fraud Committed By Management On Behalf Of The Company
• Unfavorable economic conditions within the industry
• Insufficient working capital
• Dependence on one or two products customers or transactions
• Severe obsolescence
• High debt
• Extremely rapid expansion through new business or product lines
• Reduced ability to acquire credit or restrictive loan agreements
• Profit squeeze; costs and expenses rising higher and faster than sales and revenues
• Difficulty in collecting receivables
• Progressive deterioration in quality of earnings
• Significant tax adjustments
• Urgent need for favorable earnings to support high price of stock or to meet earnings forecast
• Need to gloss over a temporarily bad situation in order to maintain management position and prestige
• Significant litigation, especially between stockholders and management
• Unmarketable collateral
• Significant reduction in sales backlogs (indicates future sales have declined)
• Possibility of license being revoked or imperiled, especially if it is necessary for the continuation of business
• Suspension or desisting from a stock exchange
• Pressure to merge
• Sizable inventory increase without comparable sales increases
• Consistently late reports
• Managers who regularly assume subordinates duties
• Noncompliance with corporate directives and procedures
• Managers dealing in matters outside their profit center’s scope
• Payments to trade creditors supported by copies instead of originals
• Negative debit memos
• Commissions not in line with increased sales
Telltale Signs of Management and Corporate Fraud
In every case of management and corporate fraud telltale signs of the fraud exist for
some period or time before a third party detects or discloses it. These signs may be:
1. Significant observed changes from the defrauder s past behavior patterns
2. Knowledge that the defrauder has undergoing emotional trauma in his home life or work life
3. Knowledge that the defrauder was betting heavily, drinking heavily, had a very expensive social life, or was sexually promiscuous
4. Knowledge that the defrauder was heavily in debt
5. Audit findings deemed to be errors and irregularities that were considered immaterial at the time
6. Knowledge that the company was having financial difficulties such as frequent cash flow shortages, declining sales and/or profits, and loss of market share
7. Knowledge that management was showing increasing signs of incompetence i.e., poor planning, organization communications controls, motivation, and delegation, management indecision and confusion about corporate mission! goals, and strategies, and management ignorance of conditions in the industry and in the general economy
8. Substantial growth beyond the industry norm versus regulated industries
4. CHARACTERISTICS OF TOP-MANAGEMENT FRAUD
Top Management Defrauders
- Tend to have highly material personal values.
- Success to them means financial success, not professional recognition.
- Tend to treat people as objects, not individuals and often as objects for exploitation.
- Are highly self-centered.
- Are often eccentric in the way they display their wealth or spend their money.
- They tend to be conspicuous consumers and often boast of the things they have acquired, the friends they have in high office, and all the fine places they have visited.
- Speak about their cunning achievements and winnings more than their losses.
- Appear to reckless or careless with facts and often enlarge on them.
- Appear to be hard working, almost compulsive, but most of their time at work is spent scheming and designing short cuts to get ahead or beat the competition.
- May gamble or drink a great deal.
- Buy expensive gifts for their families usually to compensate for spending so little time with them.
- Are hostile to people who oppose their views.
- They feel exempt from accountability and controls because of their station or position.
- Create a greet deal of turnover among their subordinates and often set off one subordinate against the other.
- Play favorites among subordinates, but the relationship can cool very quickly because a subordinate often falls some grace after one mistakes even an insignificant one.
- Manage by crisis more often than by objectives.
- Tend to drift with the times and have no long-range plans, tend to override internal controls with impunity and argue forcefully for less formality in controls.
- Demand absolute loyalty from subordinates, but they themselves are loyal only to their own Self-interests.
- Have few real friends within their own industry or company.
- Their competitors and colleagues often dislike them.
5. INDICATORS OF POSSIBLE FRAUDULENT ACTIVITIES
1. Transactions that are odd as to:
- Time (of day, week, month, year, or season), Frequency (too many, too few), Places (too &, too near, and too “Far out”), Amount (too high, too low, too consistent, too alike, too different), Parties or personalities (related parties, oddball personalities, strange and estranged relationships between parties, management performing clinical functions).
- Internal controls that are unenforced or too often compromised by higher authorities
2. Employee motivation, morale and job satisfaction levels that are chronically low
3. A corporate culture and reward system that supports unethical behavior toward employees, customers, competitors, lenders, and shareholders
Examples of fraud risk indicators that might be noted during fieldwork are:
Discrepancies in Accounting Records
- Account balances that are significantly over or understated
- Transactions not recorded in a complete or timely manner or improperly recorded as to amount, accounting period, classification, or company policy
- Unsupported or unauthorized records, balances, or transactions
- Last minute client adjustments that significantly affect financial results (particularly those increasing income presented after submission of the proposed audit adjustments)
Conflict or Missing Evidential Matter
- Missing documents
- Unexplained items on reconciliations
- Unavailability of other than photocopied documents
- Inconsistent, vague or implausible responses arising from inquiries or analytical procedures
- Unusual discrepancies between the clients records and confirmation replies
- Missing inventory or physical assets
- Excessive voids or credits
- Common names or addresses of payees or customers
- Alterations on documents (e.g. back dating)
- Duplications (e.g., duplicate payments)
- Questionable handwriting on documents
Unusual Relationships With the Client
- Denied access to records or facilities
- Denied access to certain employees, customers, vendors, or others from whom audit evidence might be sought
- Undue time pressures imposed by management to resolve complex or contentious issues
- Unusual delays in providing requested information
- Tips or complaints to us about fraud
- Significant internal control weaknesses or prior year internal control weaknesses not corrected
- Unusual transactions (e.g., for activities outside the normal line of business)
- Changes in accounting principles or the methods of applying them that enhances reported income
- Departure of key financial or operating personnel
- Specific instances of management’s conduct that raise serious concerns as to their integrity
6. UNDERSTANDING SYMPTOMS/RED FLAGS OF FRAUD
Understanding symptoms of fraud is the key to detecting fraud. A symptom of fraud may be defined as a condition which is directly attributable to dishonest or fraudulent activity. It may result from the fraud itself or from the attempt to conceal the fraud.
The following are representative examples of symptoms or “red flags” of fraud:
Accounts Payable Process
- Recurring identical amounts from the same vendor.
- Unusual even dollar or high cash disbursement amounts for routine odd dollar or low value purchase.
- Multiple remittance addresses for the same vendor.
- Vendor addresses do not agree with vendor approval application.
- Sequential invoice numbers from the same vendor or invoice numbers with an alpha suffix.
- Payments to vendor have increased dramatically for no apparent reason.
- Lack of segregation of duties between the following:
- Processing of accounts payable invoice and updates to vendor master files
- Check preparation and posting to vendor account
- Check preparation and mailing of signed checks
- No proper documentation of additions, changes, or deletions to vendor master file.
- Excessive credit adjustments to a particular vendor and/or credit issued by unauthorized department (credits involving quantities and price).
- Systematic pattern of adjustments to accounts payable for goods returned.
- No reconciliation performed of accounts payable subledger to general ledger control account.
- Insufficient supervisory review of accounts payable activity.
- Lack of documentation for payment of invoices.
- Cash disbursements for unrecorded liabilities and routine expenses (e.g., rent) when all expenditures must be vouchered prior to payment.
- Excessive miscodings to same expense account.
- Payments made on copies of invoices, not originals.
- Paid invoices not properly canceled, allowing for reprocessing.
- High volume of manually prepared disbursement checks.
- Unrestricted access to blank checks, signature plates, and check-signing equipment.
- Missing or easy access to blank checks, facsimile, and manual check preparation machines.
- Vendor invoices are received by department other than accounts payable (purchasing).
- Vendor complaints noted by credit rating services regarding slow or no payments not justified by disbursement schedule.
- Turnover among buyers within the purchasing department significantly exceeds attrition rates throughout the organization.
- Purchase order proficiency rates fluctuate significantly among buyers within comparable workload levels.
- Dramatic increase in purchase volume per certain vendor(s) not justified by competitive bidding or changes in production specifications.
- Unaccounted purchase order numbers or physical loss of purchase orders.
- Rise in the cost of routine purchases beyond the inflation rate.
- Unusual purchases not consistent with the categories identified by prior trends or operating budget.
- Dramatic increase in labor force or overtime not justified by production or sales volume.
- Turnover within the payroll department significantly exceeds attrition rates throughout the organization.
- Missing or easy access to blank checks, facsimile, and manual check preparation machine.
- Tax deposits are substantially less than those required by current payroll expenses.
- High volume of manually prepared payroll checks.
Cash Receipts Process
- Improper safeguarding of cash under lock and key.
- No segregation of duties between the following:
- Receiving cash and posting to customer accounts
- Issuing receipts and deposit preparation
- Infrequent bank deposits, allowing cash to accumulate.
- Consistent shortages in cash on hand.
- Consistent fluctuations in bank account balances.
- “Closing out” cash drawer before end of shift.
- Excessive number of voided transactions on a regular basis without proper explanation.
- Missing copies of pre-numbered receipts.
- Not balancing cash to accounts receivable subledger.
- Insufficient supervisory review of cashier’s daily activity.
Accounts Receivable Process
- Lack of accountability for invoice numbers issued.
- Lack of segregation of duties between the following:
- Processing of accounts receivable invoices and posting to subledger
- Posting to accounts receivable subledger and cash receipts
- Lack of policies and procedures regarding write-offs to satisfy industry standards.
- Frequent undocumented and/or unapproved adjustments, credits, and write-offs to accounts receivable subledger.
- Low turnover or slow collection cycle for accounts receivable.
- Dramatic increase in allowance for doubtful accounts in view of positive economic events and stringent credit policies.
- No reconciliation of accounts receivable subledger to general ledger control account.
- Insufficient supervisory review of accounts receivable activity as well as customer account aging schedule.
- Unrestricted access to subledgers and general ledger.
- Credit balances in inventory accounts.
- Consistent fluctuations in inventory accounts between months (e.g. debit balance one month, credit balance the next).
- Excessive inventory write-offs without documentation or approvals.
- Unusual volume of adjustments, write-offs, and disposal of material, inventory, or fixed assets.
- Unrestricted access to inventory storage areas by non-responsible employees and/or vendors.
- Significant weaknesses in inventory cut-off procedures.
- No policy regarding identification, sale, and disposal of obsolete and surplus materials.
- Finished goods inventory turnover rate does not correlate with operating cycle.
- No segregation of duties between:
- Receipt of inventory and issuing of materials
- Recording of inventory accounts and ordering materials
- Identification of obsolete and surplus materials and sale and disposal of such materials
- There is no policy regarding inventory levels to be maintained (i.e., minimums, maximums, reorder points).
- Systematic pattern of improperly labeled inventory and raw materials.
- Poor review of inventory accounts, write-offs, and physical access to storage areas.
- Lack of regular physical inventories carried out by independent personnel.
- Consistent production overruns beyond sales demand and backlog orders.
- Excessive production waste, spoilage, or other loss of raw materials.
- Physical replacement of finished goods within production area beyond a reasonable period of time.
- Abnormal expenditures for external maintenance services beyond normal repairs and capability of internal repair service personnel.
- Extended delay of goods marked “for shipment” maintained within shipping area.
- Significant adjustments to accrued liabilities, accounts receivable, contingencies, and other accounts prior to acquisition of new financing.
- Dramatic change in key leverage, operating, and profitability ratios prior to obtaining financing.
- Adopting a change in accounting principle or revising an accounting estimate prior to obtaining financing.
- Increase in short-term cash and a decrease in receivables while sales are increasing prior to seeking new financing.
- A change in external activities, legal counsel, or treasury department head prior to obtaining new financing.
- A delay in issuance of monthly, quarterly, or annual financial reports prior to seeking new financing.