Working in accounting can be a dull, even tedious career. You input purchase order information, validate timeclock information for payroll and tax purposes, and generally make sure that the company doesn’t run into the red. You may have to do several different kinds of work for your company, especially if you are the accounting manager or the only accountant working at a small or middle-sized business.
When an executive or the owner of the company asks you to do something outside of your normal workflow, possibly in violation of a company policy, you may not think twice to take action. However, following the rules about financial transfers protects you more than the business if you work in a position where you could wind up accused of criminal activity.
You could be the scapegoat for someone else’s scam
There’s a reason that most businesses require signed internal paperwork for the issuance of checks or the release of wire transfers. Fraud and staff embezzlement can affect the company’s profit margin or even push them out of business.
If someone has access to the company’s financial accounts, they can do a lot of damage if they have selfish motives. An executive, manager or even owner might take money from the company because they intend to file bankruptcy in the future. Embezzlement schemes are often the last resort of someone who ran a failed business or those who have previously broken the law in other ways. They can also be a way for someone upset about their wages to pad their income.
If your boss asks you to wire something without the right paperwork or issue a check to an unusual payee, it will protect you to get their request in writing. That way, if there’s an issue in the future, you can show it was not an action you took of your own volition or for personal benefit.
What can you do if someone else tricked you?
Some of the people accused of embezzlement are truly victims of their circumstances. They may not have earned any profit from the embezzlement but still stand accused of criminal activity because they were the one to write the check or send a wire transfer.
If you find yourself in this unfortunate situation, fighting back not only keeps you out of jail but helps you regain your professional reputation. Forensic accountants and other specialists could play a role in your white-collar crime defense strategy by helping prove that you didn’t benefit from or have access to stolen funds.