David Anderson is principal of David Anderson & Associates, a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of fraud investigation, fraud deterrence programs and forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley.
Another summer of fun and vacation is underway. Those employees with vacation homes at the shore or in the mountains have started their regular weekend visits. Work likely has slowed down or fallen behind as employees take vacations, and employers scramble to cover their vacant positions.
While summer is generally fun for all of us, it is especially fun for fraudsters, according to Certified Fraud Examiner David Anderson of the Philadelphia forensic accounting services firm of David Anderson & Associates. That fun, he said, comes in two distinct areas: Workplace Fraud and Vacation Fraud.
As employers shift schedules to account for employees on vacation, Anderson said they can unwittingly open their operation up to increased risk of fraud. This potential fraud arises from several sources:
- Employees who do not normally perform sensitive financial jobs may be drafted to fill in for the vacationing incumbents;
- These “fill-in” employees may not be familiar with fraud deterrence measures in place, and may fail to perform or enforce them;
- These same employees may be provided with passwords and other access rights to computers and/or software to which they normally do not have access;
- When incumbents return from vacation, they may not change their passwords and/or technical staff may not remove the access rights of the employees filling in for the incumbents;
- Reconciling bank accounts and other fraud deterrence measures may be delayed due to backlogs created by vacations;
- Management may relax fraud investigation and oversight as well as forensic accounting measures due to either employee vacations, their own vacations, or both.
To avoid these risks, Anderson said management must take steps to ensure:
- “Fill-in” employees are properly trained not only in the incumbent’s job but also in the applicable fraud deterrence measures;
- Technical staff sets up separate passwords and access rights for the “fill-in” employees, and promptly removes these access rights as soon as the incumbents return to work;
- Bank reconciliations and other fraud deterrence measures should continue to be applied and performed on either an uninterrupted or a delayed basis; and
- Management must exercise an increased level of oversight, or at least the same measure of oversight, as it does the rest of the year.
Fraudsters know people on vacation have relaxed vigilance regarding their debit and credit cards and other personal financial information. Anderson said an increasing number of fraudsters are using skimmers and other measures to obtain this information.
In particular, the use of skimmers has increased. Skimmers are electronic data collection devices that are placed over ATM card slots, credit card slots, and on credit card swipers. They have become smaller in size and less noticeable to the point that it can be difficult to ascertain whether a skimmer has been placed on the device you are using. In fact, the U.S. Secret Service just issued an alert about the increased use of skimmers on gas station pumps.
While Anderson said people generally are aware if something appears different in the ATMs and other devices they regularly use at home, relaxed vigilance on vacation and unfamiliarity with ATMs and other devices at vacation locations put individuals at greater risk of having their card and other personal financial information stolen. To emphasize this point, Anderson shared a personal experience:
Two years ago, Anderson was on vacation in Asheville, North Carolina. On the Sunday his family was leaving, he went to the ATM at a local bank and withdrew funds. Unbeknownst to him, fraudsters had placed a skimmer on the ATM machine. Anderson only learned of the theft of his debit card and PIN information on Monday night when he went online to check his bank account and noticed a strange charge made in Washington state approximately 12 hours after he had withdrawn funds from the ATM.
Anderson subsequently learned the fraudsters had used his debit card and PIN information to purchase an iPhone in Washington state. When he contacted Ashville bank officials the next day, they checked the ATM and found there was no skimmer on it. However, they later notified him they had had several complaints during the week about people who had used their ATM and had fraudulent charges appear on their debit cards.
Bank officials told Anderson they had instituted a new procedure to check the ATM at the end of their business day and first thing the next morning to see if there was a skimmer on it. However, they admitted they would have no way of knowing that fraudsters had placed and then removed a skimmer outside of normal banking hours unless they reviewed hours of tapes from each ATM every day.
Now, when he is on vacation, Anderson said he only uses an ATM that is in a bank’s lobby and only during normal business hours. He also said he only uses his debit card as a credit card to avoid entering his PIN number. In addition, he said he maintains a higher level of vigilance whenever he uses his debit or credit card out of town . . . and he strongly recommends others adopt this same practice. With regards to gas pump purchases, Anderson also said that he either pays cash or goes into the station to have his debit or credit card processed there instead of at the pump.
If you require the services of a Certified Fraud Examiner or any other forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley, please contact the Philadelphia forensic accounting firm of David Anderson & Associates by calling David Anderson at 267-207-3597 or emailing him at email@example.com.
About David Anderson & Associates
David Anderson & Associates is a Philadelphia forensic accounting firm that provides a full range of forensic accounting services in Philadelphia and the Delaware Valley. The experienced professionals at David Anderson & Associates provide forensic accounting, business valuation, fraud investigation, litigation support, economic damage analysis, business consulting and outsourced CFO services. Company principal David Anderson has more than 30 years of experience in financial and operational leadership positions and is a Certified Public Accountant, a Certified Fraud Examiner and a Certified Valuation Analyst.