On Monday night, I watched the Dateline episode, “Tangled Web,” about a woman named Sandra Bridewell who was recently arrested on fraud charges.
In 1985, Sandra was also the prime suspect in her husband’s death. The Dateline story details how after his death she traveled the country for 20 years using a number of different names.
At one point, she worked as a caregiver for an elderly woman. The woman’s family claims Sandra embezzled their mother’s social security checks and nearly had the mother’s home put into foreclosure for failure to pay the mortgage. Throughout the story, several individuals from Sandra’s past are interviewed, claiming they were conned for thousands of dollars.
What surprised me was how easy it seemed Sandra was able to gain access to personal information and large amounts of money, even though she had a questionable history and most likely very few solid personal or professional references.
Like the individuals in the Dateline story, businesses are often too quick to give an untested employee control of highly sensitive information. According to a 2002 study, published by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, occupational fraud costs organizations $600 billion a year.
How often could these devastating fraud cases have been avoided by performing background checks and asking more in-depth interview questions?
An applicant may sound great on paper and may even be charming in person, but what do their references have to say about them? Has a background check been performed? What about a simple Google search?
I’m not saying people should hire a private investigator to snoop out every new acquaintance, but it just makes good sense to perform due diligence before giving a perfect stranger access to things like social security numbers, company checks, banking information or other sensitive information.
What steps does your company go through before hiring new employees? Do you feel these are sufficient? Have you or your organization ever been a victim of fraud?