Attestation Update – A&A for CPAs

Technical stuff for CPAs providing attestation services

Posts Tagged ‘fraud

The story on Silk Road, an on-line drug bazaar, shows the power of rationalization and self-deception

leave a comment »

Cover of “American Kingpin” from Amazon. Used under fair use.

The sad tale of Ross Ulbricht and his on-line drug bazaar called Silk Road is a good study of the outer limits of how far rationalization can carry a person.

It is also a frightening illustration of Jeremiah 17:9. From the New International Version, ponder:

The heart is deceitful above all thing and beyond cure. Who can understand it?

Considering the tale of Silk Road is useful for accountants wanting to learn about the outer fringe of the internet and he investigative power of the federal government, believers who would like an illustration of the frightening level of deceit that lives in the human heart, and anyone else wanting to learn more about the dark worlds that normal people will never see.

My posts are gathered into two collections on my other blog, Outrun Change:

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jim Ulvog

September 26, 2017, 16:22 pm at 4:22 pm

Posted in Other stuff, Pondering

Tagged with

Alleged arson illustrates the fraud triangle

leave a comment »

Analyze fraud in terms of opportunity, motivation, and rationalization. Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

A current trial alleging arson and insurance fraud provides CPAs an educational read on the fraud triangle.

Consider these articles if you want more background or to see my sources:

A fellow woke to fire in his home, packed a few belongings, called 911, tossed a couple suitcases out the window he broke with his cane, then climbed out the window to save his life.

That’s what he told fire officials and his insurance company.

The fully involved fire, which from a photo looks to have destroyed the home, caused around $400,000 of damages.

Technology can rat you out

His pacemaker told a different story.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jim Ulvog

March 21, 2017, 8:57 am at 8:57 am

Posted in Audits, Fraud

Tagged with

In case you hadn’t hear, those telephone calls claiming to be from the IRS demanding you immediately pay back taxes are a scam.

leave a comment »

Wouldn't it be nice if the phone id actually was that accurate for every call? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Wouldn’t it be nice if the caller ID was actually that accurate for every call? Image courtesy of Adobe Stock.

(Cross-posted from my other blog, Nonprofit Update, so you may refer your clients to an article that provides depth on how to avoid becoming victim of recent scams.)

The most frequent scam in 2016 was the phone calls saying “This is the IRS and if you don’t pay your past due taxes this instant we will send someone to your house to arrest you right now.”

There are many things wrong with those calls.

As a starter, your first contact with the IRS will never be by phone. You will instead get a letter explaining what the IRS thinks you messed up.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jim Ulvog

January 9, 2017, 10:38 am at 10:38 am

Posted in Fraud, Other stuff

Tagged with

Guess we might want to reallocate blame for that $5 billion trading loss at Societe Generale

leave a comment »

Sometimes it's complicated. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Sometimes it’s complicated. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

One thing I’ve learned while being in leadership at my church is that a conflict that appears simple to outsiders is usually far more complicated and messy and ugly than it appears, with blame for a conflict sometimes belonging to the party that appears innocent.

I’m slowly catching on that maybe that idea sometimes applies to massive financial fiascos. (Yeah, yeah, I know. I usually catch on really slow.)

Who is at fault?

Back in January 2008 a trader, Jérôme Kerviel, engaged in €50B of unauthorized trades for Société Générale and hid his trades. That’s fifty billion euros. He admits to making fake entries to hide his admittedly unauthorized trades.

Unwinding the trades cost the bank €4.9B.

I recall at the time that the story line was he was a rogue, a scoundrel, etc., doing all this by himself, etc., single handedly pulling off a huge scam, etc, cleverly wending his way between those tight internal controls, etc.

Criminal sentence

Previously, Mr. Kerviel was tried and convicted on criminal charges. His initial sentence was five years, which was reduced to two years (I think it was 2 but maybe was 3).

He served five months in prison, according to the following article.

Wrongful termination

Well, multiple parts of the French judicial system are saying that allocating the blame is a bit more complicated.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jim Ulvog

October 4, 2016, 8:00 am at 8:00 am

Posted in Fraud, Other stuff

Tagged with ,

Yet another banking fiasco – Opening two million fake accounts to meet sales targets

with one comment

Wells Fargo Concord stagecoach. April 2012 photo by James Ulvog.

Wells Fargo Concord stagecoach. Notice the only suspension for running over rough roads is those leather straps under the passenger compartment. Those didn’t smooth out the rocks and bumps very much. April 2012 photo by James Ulvog.

Deep sigh. Another banking fiasco hit the papers yesterday. The Wall Street Journal reported Wells Fargo to Pay $185 Million Fine Over Account Openings.

The bank will pay a mere $185M to settle claims brought by OCC, CFPB (Consumer Finance Protection Bureau, the new creation of the Dodd-Frank legislation), and LA city attorney.

This scheme involved customer-facing employees opening fake bank accounts in the name of existing customers without the customer’s permission. Another variation is opening a fake account in the name of a nonexistent customer. Article says sometimes money would be transferred from a customer’s account into the new, fake account with occasional NSF fees because there wasn’t enough money in the legitimate account to cover legitimate checks.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jim Ulvog

September 9, 2016, 8:30 am at 8:30 am

Posted in Accounting, Fraud

Tagged with ,

Cheating on your Fitbit? After you stop laughing, think about this from the fraud perspective.

leave a comment »

One option to get superb results on your exercise tracker. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

One option to create superb results on your exercise tracker. Photo courtesy of Adobe Stock.

Sometimes you just have to laugh.

On June 9, The Wall Street Journal asked Want to Cheat Your Fitbit? Try a Puppy or a Power Drill.

Those informal office challenges to get people to exercise often involve using a Fitbit device to track how far participants walk or run.

Apparently a few folks have decided to take some shortcuts.

One fellow attached his tracker to the blade of an electric saw. After leaving it run overnight he had recorded 57,000 steps the next morning.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jim Ulvog

June 15, 2016, 8:07 am at 8:07 am

The most interesting information from the Panama Papers is what *isn’t* in the files.

leave a comment »

Image courtesy of

Image courtesy of

The best stories to be told as a result of the massive data leak cannot yet be written.


The really smart people use multiple layers of shell companies to hide assets.  When laundering money, one should move assets through a series of companies, with each subsequent jump being anonymous.

A long time ago I attended a continuing education class helping CPAs understand fraud. Why are such classes required? So that, hopefully, maybe, CPAs will be able to recognize fraud when it stares them in the face during the course of an audit.

During the class, the instructor went off script and explained to us how to launder money.

Read the rest of this entry »

Written by Jim Ulvog

April 22, 2016, 8:13 am at 8:13 am

Posted in Audits, Fraud, Other stuff, Pondering

Tagged with ,