Protecting Yourself Against Bookkeeper Fraud
© THE PROFIT LINE Reprinted with Permission
With the rash of recent media stories about bookkeepers defrauding their employers, we thought it was time to offer a few tips that could keep the same thing from happening to you.
First of all, realize that the person who defrauds you could be the person you least expect. Would you think a church bookkeeper who had held her position for close to 20 years was a fraud? No? Neither did the church. And the bookkeeper bilked the organization for hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Since you can't live your life in a state of constant paranoia, suspecting every person who crosses your path, here are a few safeguards you can use to minimize the chances of fraud happening within your organization:
- Never give your online banking information to anyone, period. Password access to your account is just an engraved invitation for someone to dip his hands into the cookie jar. By the time you realize the money is gone, your bookkeeper could be too.
- Never have blank signed cheques anywhere. This is a common mistake; many business owners leave signed cheques with their bookkeeper or staff for the sake of convenience. But it means that cheques to unknown payees and in unknown amounts can easily be made out - and the fraud doesn't even have to forge your signature!
- Never give signing authority on your bank accounts to a bookkeeper. You open yourself to abuse if your bookkeeper has legitimate power to write cheques without your knowledge.
- Be the first person to open and check your bank statements each month. Question any entry or cheque that you don't recognize. Bookkeepers often go years without being detected simply because they are the only ones who actually watch what goes through the bank accounts.
- Separate your bookkeeping and accounting roles. Two pairs of eyes on your books can provide a critical set of checks and balances. The accountant can review the bookkeeper's records and vice versa, ensuring each person is held accountable and deception is more likely to be caught.
Be smart and be aware. With a little caution, you can dramatically reduce your chances of being victim to fraud.
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