Monday, September 3, 2007

10 Tips for Preventing Fraud

Hello and welcome to the first of what we hope will be many “micropods” presented by Custom Business Solutions. What is a micropod, you might ask? Quite simply, it is a podcast devoted to Microsoft software as it is used in small business applications.

As a business bookkeeping and consulting firm in Reno, Nevada – Custom Business Solutions not only boasts certifications in industry leader QuickBooks, but we are also certified as Microsoft Office Small Business Accounting consultants.

We are particularly excited about the emergence of Office Accounting as another excellent option for small businesses looking to move their bookkeeping from the old paper or shoebox method to the computer.

Aside from all of the standard features we’re used to finding in Peachtree or QuickBooks, Microsoft Office Accounting has ADP payroll built right in (a real plus for small businesses who are tired of the headaches of doing payroll themselves and hoping to get it right). Additionally, the ability to associate any kind of external file (images, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, etc) with each vendor, customer, or employee has the potential for some really interesting uses that the other major small business accounting packages don’t currently offer.

Today's podcast is a great tip sheet for preventing fraud. Accounting professionals, office administrators, consultants, and small business owners should find this quite useful. I have printed the tips on my blog at micropods.custmbiz.com if you would like to get a copy for future reference.

Top Ten Tips to Help Prevent Fraud (in Order of Effectiveness)

1. Send Bank and Credit Card Statements to a Separate Address. Do not send your bank statements to your business address. Have your bank statement sent to your home, PO Box, or lockbox address. Review each check both front and back for payee, signature, and endorsement. Even if you don’t allow your employees to use your credit card, make sure those statements sent to an alternative address too. Examine each statement carefully. Review each and every line item of both payments and charges.

2. Do Not Let Anyone Misrepresent Themselves as You. Do not let them use your password, sign your name, or use your credit card, ever. Never let an employee sign your name, use your credit card, or misrepresent themselves to your bank or credit card company. Reimburse their expense. Don’t reveal sensitive passwords. If you allow your employee to sign your name even on credit card purchases, it could compromise your legal recourse in case of fraud or embezzlement.

3. Reconcile Bank Accounts and Review Statements. Review every statement. Make sure all bank accounts and credit cards are reconciled. Afterwards, take time to review every reconciliation report. Notice stale checks or deposits that have not cleared the bank. Check for missing deposits. An increase in the number of reconciled items may also reveal mischief.

4. Assign Administrative Rights Effectively. Use the Administrative rights in QuickBooks to protect your data. The first person to set up QuickBooks is by default assigned as Administrator. This role has unique permissions. So the administrator should be designated to either an outside party, i.e., a CPA, a QuickBooks Certified Consultant, or the savvy owner. Make sure that every user is set up separately and that passwords are used. Lock down permissions to change or delete transactions. Especially important: Use passwords for closing dates.

5. Use the Audit Trail in QuickBooks. If you don’t have the latest version of QuickBooks, make sure you turn on the Audit Trail. Go to Preferences > Accounting and click on the box Audit Trail. Caution: the Audit Trail won’t tell you if a vendor name has been changed or merged. It is wise to maintain a strict paper trail. Supporting documents need to be readily accessible in your files and then archived according to the type of document.

6. Use the Voided/Deleted Transaction Report. After you have turned on the Audit Trail, and made its review part of your routine, periodically review the Voided/Deleted Transaction Report to see which entries which have been modified.

7. Establish Accounting Controls. The principle of countervailing power is the fundamental reason to use checks and balances in accounting. Split the responsibilities between staff members or outside accounting professionals. Warning Sign: If only one person writes the checks and reconciles the account, there is no double check. Separate the duties. Consider another person to do reconciliations so it is done by a person other than the staffer generating the checks. Perhaps a Certified QuickBooks ProAdvisor® or CPA can provide these services.

8. Adhere to a Numerical Sequence. Use a numerical sequence for all transactions. Invoice, bills, and checks which are numbered fall in a logical and chronological order. The reason: To identify missing documents. Look at the bank statement for large gaps. Secure paper checks. If you keep voided paper checks, remember to tear off the signature area to keep it from being misused. If your bank sends paper checks, sort them numerically.

9. Review Receivables and Payables. Look for adjustments to Receivables or Payables. Such adjustments could indicate subverted payments or vendor checks.

10. Back up Your Data. Repeat after me – Back up, back up, back up. Think redundant backups as a contingency plan for disasters of all sorts. Make scheduled copies. Rotate the media (tape drive or portable storage). If you use CDs, better buy the read-only variety. Store your backups at another location. Such diligence can come in especially handy if there is a disaster. In some fraud cases, the bookkeeper may delete all of the QuickBooks files to avoid detection. In such cases the business has to pay a large sum for data retrieval, in hopes of capturing any shred of evidence. Be smart; back up. It only takes a few minutes.

Are you backing up your data?

I hope you find this discussion helpful. If you have questions about this topic, just drop me a line at jayne@quickbooksgal.com. If you are a QuickBooks user, check out blog.quickbooksgal.com for our podcast series about QuickBooks and other related bookkeeping topics. Peachtree users can visit peachpods.custmbiz.com for tips and news about Peachtree products.

We are now serving Incline Village and Lake Tahoe. We have two great consultants in the area that will be happy to assist with QuickBooks or Peachtree training & support. Visit our website at tahoe.custmbiz.com.

If there are topics you would like me to cover or have questions, send your email to jayne@quickbooksgal.com. Don’t forget to visit our website, http://www.quickbooksgal.comor www.custmbiz.com to learn more about me and our services.

Remember, you can read or listen to past podcasts at blog.quickbooksgal.com or peachpods.custmbiz.com.

That's it for now. Join me next time for another Micro Pod and more tips and information I hope you will find helpful.

I'm Jayne Miller. Thanks for listening.

Custom Business Solutions is a consulting firm in Reno, NV that specializes in providing bookkeeping and software support.

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