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Canadian biz face lower economic crime, but fraudsters keep up

Asset misappropriation and procurement fraud are most common crimes encountered by Canadian businesses.


TORONTO – While economic crime against organizations has risen globally with 37% of organizations surveyed experiencing it, a 3% rise since 2011, Canada has reported lower instances of economic crime than its international counterparts in the last two surveys, according to the 2014 PwC Global Economic Crime Survey (GECS).

The Canadian supplement of the GECS report indicated this trend may be due to Canadian organizations being more diligent in establishing robust anti-fraud regimes – including fraud risk assessments and whistleblowing systems.

“While Canada sits below the global average, the threats from economic crime continue to evolve. Like a virus, savvy fraudsters adapt to the trends that affect all organizations and economic crime will continue to be a major concern for organizations of all sizes, across all regions and in virtually every sector,” says Steven Henderson, National Forensic Services Leader at PwC.

According to the Canadian GECS report, the most common type of fraud encountered by Canadian organizations was asset misappropriation – theft – (58%), followed by procurement fraud (33%), cybercrime (22%) and accounting fraud (22%).

Fiscal damage vs collateral costs
Of the Canadian respondents who had experienced economic crime in the survey, more than one in 10 reported losses of more than US$5 million. Worldwide, the number of organizations that experienced losses greater than US$100 million doubled from one to two per cent of respondents in the 2014 global survey – compared to when the survey was taken last in 2011.

“Beyond the numbers, the true cost of a fraud incident lies with employee morale and corporate reputation,” says Henderson. Forty -seven per cent of Canadian respondents noted employee morale as being greatly impacted as a result of an economic crime.

Getting on the anti-bribery & corruption bandwagon
Thirty -eight per cent of Canadian respondents noted that their organization pursued an opportunity in a market with a high level of corruption risk. Of those respondents, 47% altered their business plan due to the corruption risk, while 40% did not. The remaining 13% didn’t know if they had or not.

When it comes to bribery payments, 15% of Canadian companies indicated that they have been asked to do so, while 14% believe they have lost an opportunity to a competitor who paid a bribe.

“These findings are concerning given the fact that bribery and corruption may pose the greatest threat to global establishments because of the range of business processes it threatens,” says Henderson. “Companies face not only investigative costs, penalties and fines, but could face long-term reputational damage impacting the value of the company. It is critical for Canadian companies to ensure they assess their current bribery and corruption risk, and implement a robust anti-bribery and corruption compliance program to address these risks.”

Continuing focus on cybercrime
Cybercrime is listed as one of the top five economic crimes in Canada and globally. The 2014 GECS reported that approximately one in four respondents have experienced a cybercrime.

According to the GECS, technology advancement along with social media growth and dependence on connectivity has increased the spread of cybercrime, but it’s not strictly a technology problem.

“Businesses aren’t being attacked by computers, but by people attempting to exploit human frailty as much as technical vulnerability. It is a strategy problem, a human problem and a process problem,” says Henderson.

Profiling a fraudster
Typically economic crime is committed when three conditions are present: life pressure, opportunity and personal rationalization for the crime.

According to Canadian survey respondents, more than half (61%) of fraud perpetrators were internal and 39% were external. The survey found that the profile of a typical fraudster is middle-aged with a college education or higher who has been with the organization for a substantial amount of time.

Catch them if you can
Canadian survey results found that 62% of economic crime is discovered through corporate control measures such as reporting of suspicious transactions, internal audit or fraud risk management. Less than 18% of economic crimes are uncovered by whistleblowing systems or tip offs.