The risk within

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During an economic slowdown, growing top-line revenue is challenging for small businesses. Fraud can make matters worse by decimating income before it ever makes it to the bottom line.

Here are some simple steps to mitigate the risk of fraud.

* Know your employees. A thorough background check reduces the possibility of internal problems.

* Maintain a secure location for checks, deposit slips and bank statements, and restrict access to them.

* Find a reputable check printer that offers security features for checks, such as a watermark, that makes them difficult to replicate. Don’t use generic, blank check stock, which can be easily duplicated.

* Verify that strong internal accounting controls are in place. Separate check writing and reconciliation responsibilities in your accounts payable department so that one person doesn’t have access to the entire process.

* Reconcile your bank accounts monthly. If a discrepancy is discovered long after the check was issued, your company could be liable for the loss.

* Set dollar limits on checks, and require more than one signature on high-dollar checks.

* Watch for checks made out to cash or those cashed out of sequence, which could indicate renumbered, counterfeit checks.

* Shred documents that contain account numbers or other sensitive financial information.

How to reach: Ryan Burgess, Corporate Treasury Management and Public Funds, Fifth Third Bank, 341-2583 or [email protected]