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WRVS sets up fraud response team as recession bites

WRVS sets up fraud response team as recession bites
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WRVS sets up fraud response team as recession bites

Finance | Tania Mason | 8 Dec 2009

WRVS has established a fraud response team with representatives drawn from four different departments in order to tackle the changing nature of fraudulent activity going on both inside and outside the charity.

Jill Reid, the charity’s head of audit and risk management, says that since the credit crunch got into full swing, the whole risk profile within WRVS has changed.

“A year ago, attempts to defraud the charity came from shortages in banking or palming cash from the tills,” she said. “Now it has become a different ball game - in the last six months we have uncovered overtime, petty cash and authorisation frauds.

“It feels at times that as fast as we close one loophole another one is found.”

The fraud response team that has been formed to reduce the risk of fraud has members from finance, HR, internal audit and operations. It meets regularly and has drawn up an anti-fraud policy for the charity and set up a whistleblowing hotline, referred to internally as the integrity line – “or the bat phone within the audit team”.  The ‘bat phone’ is a company mobile on a £12-a-month contract.

Reid said that one popular scam is based in fundraising. A donor calls the charity and states: “I made a mistake when I donated through your website yesterday.  I entered £500 but I meant to donate £50, please could you refund me the £450.” The £450 is refunded to the card given over the phone, but then the charity discovers it was stolen or a copy.

Reid advises that the main weapons to use to combat fraud are “awareness, reporting and monitoring”.  

“By talking aloud, reporting fraud either to the police or the Charity Commission, criminals will eventually stop regarding charities as soft targets staffed by inexperienced people who trust everyone,” she said.

Reid has written an article for the Charity Finance Yearbook 2010 in which she offers some practical tips on how charities can avoid being targeted by fraudsters.  To pre-order your copy of the Yearbook, click here.

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