How Do I Know If I Have HOA Embezzlement: Ways to Detect and Prevent Fraud, and Theft in HOAs
How Do I Know If I Have HOA Embezzlement: Nowadays, it is common among varied homeowners associations or HOAs, whether among condominiums or typical residences to experience fraud and theft. Embezzlers see quite reasons why they choose to target these groups of individuals. Money is one of the core factors why. It is quite amusing to see shocking statistical facts on frauds and thefts among homeowners.
- The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners says that around 225 of embezzlers loot more than $1 million.
- Organizations with less than 100 staffs recorded 28% of them are fraud victims with an average loss of $154,000.
- It is estimated that cons can sustain hiding their real identities in an average of 18 months before entrapment. Consequently, another study concludes that embezzlers could escape from the law for about 4 years and 8 months.
- It is noted that smaller groups tend to accumulate bigger losses compared to huge organizations. It boils down to the idea that smaller companies have weaker control measures.
Ways to Detect and Prevent Fraud and Theft in HOAs
Since this problem is basically existing and hard to control, precautions are necessary. Try to go over these red flags as signals of fraud and theft in HOAs.
- Instead of vendors’ hard street addresses on invoices, you’ll see P.O. boxes instead.
- There are duplications of addresses between vendors and employees or board members.
- Amounts of balances go beyond the budgeted sums
- On-time transactions become multiple payments to a specific vendor
- Contracts that are single-source
- Some important documents such as letters and bills are nowhere to be found
- Photocopied files are filed instead of original documents
- Bank deposit delays
- Frequent disappearance on petty cash fund
- Payment duplications
- Property management employees decline promotions or vacations
- The consultation fee is paid without concise scrutiny coming from the board of directors.
- A defensive action retaliates from someone once asked about reports on bookkeeping/accounting op your HOA.
- There are record paid services but no performances tracked.
- Imbalance on the accounts payable and receivable
- Notice a staff member or a member of the board who prefers working from home instead of on property management offices.
- Problems on drinking, gambling, or drug habits
Looking into the list above, you’ll get an overview of the common signs that a possibility of fraud and theft in HOAs is of great chance. Added to that, spotting an ‘overbuying’ is a common signal too.
For instance, your accounting staff gets an invoice that shows 80 toilet bowls while the on sight location has 40 completely installed ones in all comfort rooms. Note this one by looking into the person who penned his signature on it.
Next, you might spot a staff, a manager, or a board member purchase hundreds of dollars worth of supplies to Walmart for instance. Afterward, they returned those items and pocketed the amount of sum. A copy of the receipt is sent to the HOA’s bookkeeper while the original invoice is used to have a refund.
That is why background checks are not enough to spot fraudsters. In most cases, these cons are veterans when it comes to accomplishing fraud and theft in HOAs. Some are keen enough to pass pre-employment tests that detect theft and fraud personalities. It is best to test your staffs with additional responsibilities that’ll measure their honesty with the job.
Ways to Prevent Fraud and Theft in HOAs
While it is necessary that you are aware of the red flags of these embezzlers in your organization, it is best to prevent them too. Here are the ways to do it.
1.Monitor checks and balances consistently
You must see to it that the responsibilities of employees should vary from each other. For example, if you assign a certain person as a signatory for checks, he or she shouldn’t be responsible for gathering and verifying invoices too. It is also the same as tasking staffs to make purchases while appointing other individuals to reconcile bank statements. Make sure to separate the reserve account and the operating account as well with other individual funds.
2.Get engaged with work
It is important that board members have the first look and hold of inspecting paperworks such as records. Records, supplies, and inventories should be scrutinized and if some discrepancies are spotted, employees should be held accountable for it. Transparency is so important coupled with accountability and being fully aware of the kind of jobs each one holds. It also sends an impact to fraudsters that every move they make is being eagle-eyed by the board members, making them feel uneasy to exercise their scams.
3.Label accounts properly and update bank records
Bank accounts are the most vulnerable thing that embezzlers target. Therefore, to keep these accounts not easy access for fraud and theft in HOAs, each should be named under the association. Make sure that you should check bank records such as updating signature cards.
4.Board members should undergo training
It is understandable that HOAs do not necessarily appoint board members who are bookkeepers. It is a voluntary job. Therefore, most of them are unaware of the whole scope of professional bookkeeping of managing employees. The best thing to address this issue is to have them undergo training such as inviting an expert in accounting to help them understand the process.
5. Assign different bookkeepers from time to time.
The issue of monopoly is smashed if you create bookkeeping rotation roles. A possible fraudster may be prevented from monopolizing control over the organization’s money matters.
6. Implement audits either announced and unannounced
A CPA or a certified public accountant is essential in updating HOAs' financial records to detect and prevent fraud, and theft in HOAs. And, it has to be either announced or unannounced so that employees will have that feeling of keeping things in order because they are fully aware that an audit team comes randomly.
7. Hire fraud experts
It is really not easy to detect cons who are also professional on fraud and theft in HOAs. It is best to acquire a certified fraud examiner. These experts are necessary if the organization feels that an embezzler is roaming around the association.
8. Invest in purchasing a fidelity insurance
Fidelity insurance is a policy that pays a benefit if a person under contract breaks a law such as fraud and theft. It is of best interest to insure the association which entails maximizing the amount of money in the custody of the HOAs at any moment.
Fraud and theft in HOAs have been around for years and it becomes a culture among cons to practicing their expertise on stealing from homeowner associations whether big or small. What is essential is the knowledge of detecting the red flags of these fraudsters and educating the people who are concerned about the organization to prevent embezzlers to succeed. Needless to say, ‘prevention’ is better than, ‘cure.’