March 1, 2003
Table of Contents
Quote of the Week
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Staff Article -
PREVENTING FRAUD IN THE WORKPLACE
Guest Article -
WHAT SEPARATES THE "HAVES" FROM THE "HAVE NOTS" ONLINE?
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FRAUD IN THE WORKPLACE
by: Cary Christian
Most people are painfully aware that the likelihood of falling victim to
fraud is much greater now than ever before. In large part, the Internet has
become a major tool for those who seek to commit fraud. But the vast
majority of business fraud still occurs offline and is carried out by
employees of the defrauded business.
As a small business owner you may not worry much about internal fraud.
Generally, small businesses are not as susceptible to fraud as large
businesses are because the owners are better able to monitor and control the
business without delegating sensitive responsibilities. But that does not
mean that fraud cannot and does not occur. It does. And as your business
grows, the opportunities for fraud will increase dramatically. In fact, the
single greatest factor in someone deciding to commit business fraud is
ORGANIZATIONAL OPPORTUNITY. If your business provides the opportunity,
someday someone will take advantage of it.
For example, if the same person in your organization handles the billing,
the posting of cash receipts, write-offs, and makes all bank deposits,
what's to prevent them from someday making off with some of your hard earned
cash and using their position to cover it up? You've given them the
opportunity. If they ever find themselves strapped for cash, even the most
moral employee might be tempted.
It is far easier to prevent fraud than it is to detect fraud after it has
been committed. Establishing an effective fraud prevention program requires
thought and sustained effort, but the steps to implementation are relatively
simple. Let's look at a few things you can do.
1. Always enforce vacation time. Most employees who commit fraud put
themselves in a position where they must remain on the job continuously to
cover up fraudulent activities. Just knowing they must take vacation every
year is a deterrent because it increases the risk of getting caught.
2. Properly assign authority and responsibility for business functions.
Like the example above, do not give a single employee control over all the
functions required to cover up fraudulent activities.
3. Utilize job rotation. If an employee must periodically rotate out
to another job function, he or she will realize the risk of discovery is
much higher. Like enforced vacations, this can be a powerful deterrent.
4. Utilize surprise audits. Even if you do not have internal
auditors, have your accountants come in periodically and audit specific
functions of your business where fraud opportunities are most likely to
occur. The purpose of these surprise audits is not necessarily to uncover
fraud, but to let employees know that it is likely to be uncovered if
5. Effectively communicate your company's policies on fraud. Make
sure every employee is aware of what activities constitute fraud, what the
punishments will be and the tools you are using to combat fraud. Let them
know that enforced vacation time, job rotation, etc. are designed to deter
fraud. When employees know you are proactively seeking to detect fraud, the
communication itself becomes a deterrent. Increase the perception that fraud
will be detected. Also, be aware that it can sometimes be difficult to fire
an employee, even when you have uncovered fraudulent activities, if you have
not appropriately communicated your policies and what constitutes
6. Establish economic incentives for voluntary compliance with your fraud
prevention program. Make it worthwhile for your employees to join the
fight. Set up formal procedures for employees to use to report fraud. Set up
a reward structure.
7. Minimize employee pressures by instituting employee assistance
programs. Many times fraud is committed by employees who are undergoing
severe hardships and have nowhere to turn for help. If you cannot afford a
formal employee assistance program, at least have an open door policy where
employees feel they can come to management for help when they really need
8. You must be willing to punish fraud when it is found, no matter how
small. Of course, the punishment should fit the crime. Remember that
somebody fudging their expense report might seem to be a minor issue, but it
might be fudging an expense report today and absconding with thousands of
dollars in skimmed receivables tomorrow. Once an employee learns small
frauds are possible, larger ones are just over the horizon. You can use
suspensions, demotions, salary cuts, probation, dismissals and referral for
prosecution for differing levels of seriousness of the violation. If you are
not willing to punish when fraud is found, your fraud prevention program
will be useless.
Remember also that you must ensure your employees do not commit fraud in any
way for the BENEFIT of your company. For example, your controller
decides to commit tax fraud so the company can keep more of its cash. Your
company is responsible for every act of its employees, whether it is aware
of those acts or not and regardless of whether the company participates in
the activity. And that means YOU as the small business owner are
directly in the line of fire. So make sure your fraud prevention program
covers outward-looking activities as well as internal activities.
Copyright (c) 2003
WHAT SEPARATES THE "HAVES"
FROM THE "HAVE NOTS" ONLINE?
By Merle http://MerlesMission.com
Who says life is fair? Just as in the "real world," there are those online
who just seem to have it all together. Their sites look good, they have
brisk traffic, and their customer service is top notch. You can spot a site
like this instantly when you stumble across it, as you stand in awe and
admiration of one of the Internet" Haves."
So what qualities does a site need to cross over to the "Haves" elite group?
There are a few standard components they all share, so pay close attention,
and I'll clue you in on their little trade secrets.
1) Good Design and Layout: OK, this may seem like a no-brainer but if
you browse around the Net for any length of time, it's obviously not. Many
people buy a copy of Front Page and voila -- envision themselves web
designers. Many of these sites look like they were put together by a
5-year-old having a bad crayon day. If you don't know enough to put together
a decent looking site, please hire someone to do it for you. Nothing will
turn your customers off faster then a bad looking site.
Remember to leave plenty of white space, and don't place white type against
a black background, please. Don't use more than two or three colors for the
entire site, use plenty of catchy titles and headers and keep your
paragraphs short, as people read differently online than off. Most just scan
pages instead of reading fine detail. For help with your site, check out Web
2) Good Navigation: You might not think this is too difficult,
especially if your website is small. But it can become a real problem as
your site continues to grow.
menu at the bottom of each page. This makes it easier for the search engines
to index your pages and for your visitors
who may not want to scroll back to the top of the page just to make a new
Make sure you put a title or some other form of indicator on each page or
within the menu itself, so your guests know where they are at all times
within your site. Keep your menu consistent across all pages of your site
(in other words, don't get them lost). You may even wish to include a search
function to allow your visitors to find exactly what they are looking for
quickly. A good free one is...
3) Opt-In List: I'm going to say this one time, so listen carefully.
If you're going to be doing business online you MUST HAVE a way of
collecting your visitors' email addresses and build your own opt-in list.
Usually this is done in the form of offering an ezine. An ezine is an
electronic newsletter dealing with the topic of your website. For example,
someone who sells pet products might start an ezine on pet care tips and
If an ezine is too much of an undertaking for you, just start a list to
notify your guests of updates, sales or specials. Most visitors will not buy
from you the very first time they visit your site. You must have a system in
place to collect their emails and contact them down the road for a future
sale. An ezine helps you to "build relationships" which will lead to
4) Update It: If you have graphics, links and forms on your website,
make sure they work. Nothing looks more unprofessional then a site loaded
with dead links and broken graphics. Keep your site fresh and updated on a
regular basis. To check your site for broken links try
5) Contact Info: This should be simple enough but many times is
overlooked. Nothing makes you appear as if you've got something to hide than
not including some form of contact information on your site. Try to avoid PO
Boxes, as many times they may make people suspicious. Try to offer more then
one avenue of
communication like an email, phone or fax number. Answer all of your email
within 24 to 48 hours or you'll lose customers.
6) Fast Loading: Whatever you do, don't load your site with heavy
bloated graphics that take forever to download. Also, take it easy with
Flash and animation. Don't make your guests seasick with too many things
that shake and move; it's cheesy and makes you look unprofessional. There
are many services to help you compress your graphics, like
7) Who Are You?: One of the biggest mistakes I see site owners making
online is not telling your guests who you are and what you do right up
front. Web surfers are in a hurry with many places to go and things to see.
Tell them in your opening site
paragraph what you're all about. They'll appreciate the info and won't
scratch their heads wondering what on earth you do. Tell them and tell them
So there you have it. How many of these faux pas are you guilty of? These
are basic principles for any successful website. By implementing these
qualities into your own site, you too can join the "Haves" of the Internet
Community and leave the "Have Nots" behind. And that's one move certainly
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