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Protect Your Business from Accounting Fraud

Some tips to help you safeguard your business.

Protect Your Business from Accounting Fraud

David Zweighaft, CPA/CFF, CFE, has been featured on MSNBCs Your Business giving accounting advice to business owners.  Zweighaft, the managing partner of DSZ Forensic Accounting and Consulting Services and adjunct professor of forensic accounting at New York University, is a CPA and certified fraud examiner. Here, he shares his 10 most important accounting tips for businesses of all sizes.

• Ensure there is sufficient segregation of duties so that no one individual has more than one of the following: access to assets, the ability to record transactions and record keeping responsibilities. (An example of this would be a bookkeeper who has control of the checkbook, maintains the cash receipts and disbursements journal and receives and reconciles the bank statements.)  • For all disbursements above a specified amount, require two signatures for approval of checks.

• Require multiple bids on all purchases above a specified amount.

• Conduct surprise cash counts or inventory counts at least twice a year.

• All employees should take their full vacation allotment, with at least one full week taken consecutively.

• Incorporate a vendor audit clause into all purchase agreements that allows the customer to review or audit the vendor's records for that customer.

• Develop a code of conduct that defines and expands the company's mission statement and explicitly states what types of behaviors are unacceptable, as well as the consequences of violating the code. Have all employees, officers and owners read the code and sign a document stating that they have read the code, understand it and agree to abide by it. Require that all personnel sign a re-affirmation of the code annually.

• Perform thorough background checks of all employees prior to hiring.

• Communicate a zero-tolerance policy for any fraud, dishonesty, conflicts of interest, or other prohibited practices.

• Maintain a hotline or other anonymous reporting mechanism for employees to report unethical behavior without fear of retribution.  Provide a feedback mechanism so that employees reporting suspicious activity can learn the outcome of their calls.

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