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Business fraud plagues Oregon businesses: Don’t be a victim

Last month, a number of Oregon executives were sentenced to jail on fraud and money laundering convictions from 2008. A company based out of Bend defrauded millions of dollars from Oregon property owners by illegally diverting money from dozens of real estate projects to the pockets of a few individuals. Years after the crimes came to light, many are still struggling to recover their losses.

While most business frauds do not involve this much money, the effect on an individual or small business owner can be just as devastating. Sometimes, a fraud is undetectable until it is to late but awareness of common causes and preventative steps can help.

Common causes of business fraud

Cyber theft is the biggest culprit, especially in the retail business industry. Online transactions have three times the fraud rate of in-person credit cards transactions according to a Fox Business report. Transactions that require a PIN number generally are less prone to fraud but the latest debacle with Target proved that even the big companies and the most secure means of transactions are not always safe. Checks and electronic checks – commonly used with monthly online bill pay accounts – have the lowest rate of fraud.

Low-tech theft has been hitting small businesses in Oregon lately. According to Bloomberg Business week, crooks have been placing calls to Portland businesses stating they are with electric companies. Claiming that the businesses have past due payments, they try to strong-arm the merchants into settling their accounts immediately over the phone.

Additionally, merchant identify theft is also on the rise. Some thieves create fake companies and collect money for advertised products without ever intending to provide the products to the buyers. Small business owners looking for the least expensive suppliers are quite susceptible to this type of theft.

Avoiding business fraud

Many Oregon businesses are failing to take sufficient precautions to protect against fraudulent acts and theft. A recent study by Harris Interactive and the Bank of the West revealed that while nearly all small businesses use a few preventative measures, they are not doing enough. Following are some steps you can take to help protect yourself and your business assets from external attacks:

  • Use and regularly change computer and internet account passwords.
  • Verify the identity of new suppliers and vendors before making purchases.
  • Check credit card transactions regularly for inaccuracies; a number of small transactions can quickly add up.

Unfortunately, thefts can come from inside your business as well. While it may be hard to keep up the security measures when business fraud occurs between business partners or from employees, be sure to also do the following:

  • Conduct background checks on new employees before you hire them.
  • Perform regular inventory checks.
  • Keep company files and other important items under lock and key.
  • Regularly audit your finances and perform an annual audit while your chief financial officer is away.
  • Maintain a fraud insurance policy covering employee fraud.

It is most important for businesses to develop and follow an internal anti-fraud plan. Unfortunately, even the best safeguards fail to prevent all instances of fraud and it may be necessary to seek professional assistance.

A lawyer can help

If you suspect or are dealing with an instance of business fraud, consult an experienced Oregon business lawyer. An attorney knowledgeable about cases involving business fraud can help.

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