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Fraud comes in many forms. Theft, overcharges, unauthorized credit card use – these are real situations that happen on farms both large and small. Be aware of the risks, learn how to prevent them, and stay vigilant.
Shawn Williamson is a CPA with the Fick, Eggemeyer, and Williamson firm in St. Louis, Missouri. He says you’re probably keeping an eye on the people you don’t trust, but it’s the people you trust the most who have an opportunity to steal because you’re not watching them. For example, unscrupulous employees may buy extra or unneeded parts for a tractor, return them later, and pocket the refund. Accountants and bookkeepers have also been known to pilfer their client’s money.
There is no room for complacency.
"I think the number one thing is to review the bank statement, including images of the checks and seeing what was actually deposited, what was actually paid out, and you understand why everything that went out, why it went out, and that it was proper," says Williamson. "And the credit card statements as well."
Be sure you’re getting what you paid for. If you bought four tons of lime but were billed for six, it may be more sinister than a simple math error.
As you go over your invoices, make sure each one is legitimate.
"Fraudsters are out there sending out invoices," he warns. "Here’s an invoice, you never got this part, but pay me anyway. It could be fake invoices for fertilizer or seed, and on the surface, it seems like, yeah that seems correct I must have ordered fertilizer or seed, but in reality no. Just a complete fake invoice."