Fraud Can Happen Anywhere – Even University

Wednesday, May 27, 2015 6:46 pm, Posted by Absolute Destruction

As places of learning, it’s easy to forget that universities are also lucrative, multi-billion dollar businesses. As corporations, Canadian universities are now susceptible to the same dangers that threaten every other company. Fraud in particular is a risk that must be assessed and protected against.

Without a proper defense, universities and their credibility are in jeopardy. Employees can take advantage of lax security protocols and defraud significant amounts of money from these institutions. In 2012, York University was one such school – more than once!

The first case involved two former senior managers who were charged with embezzling fund from the school between 2007 and 2012. By falsely billing for goods and services that the university didn’t approve, these men were able to steal over $1 million from York. Once it was brought to their attention, university officials realized that the fraud occurred over several payments for campus construction and building maintenance that never took place. The second case involved three university employees that defrauded the school of 1.6 million dollars between 2005 and 2012. The seven year scam was in no way connected with that of the first.

How the culprits in both cases were caught was not due to a flag within their internal security systems but good old-fashioned whistle blowing. In both cases, someone was alerted to the former employees’ activities and reported the suspicious activity to a high-ranking official.

Since the charges against these former employees have been laid, York University has beefed up security, increasing safety measures surrounding anything that involves account numbers and money – things like work orders, student and employee accounts, and purchasing cards. The university has also instated a formal whistle blower policy to ensure discretion when handling an informant’s complaint.

2012 wouldn’t have been such a bad year for York had they just had proper security in first place. It goes to show you that even the most established companies are vulnerable to security breaches. As Canada’s third-largest university founded over 75 years ago, York University can’t afford to have such loose security surrounding confidential material and procedures.

Reducing access to confidential material and procedures is essential to limiting theft. Practices and systems need to be set in place in order to defend against theft. Updating internal and external IT security systems with complex passwords and installing malware to protect common computer systems make it harder for people to steal. This is a great way to defend against digital fraud. Ensuring that all paper files and old digital storage units never leave the university in the wrong hands is another way to stop fraud.

The best way to do that is to make sure any record that lists account numbers or financial information is destroyed completely. A comprehensive shredding procedure is the only way to guarantee this destruction. Locked containers house these documents away from prying eyes until they are ready to be shredded. Upon shredding, documents and digital devices are indecipherable, making it impossible for someone to steal the files and use them wrongly.

Had we had the chance, we would have happily supplied York with a group of our locked containers and set up a scheduled shredding routine. Our vetted employees would have taken our mobile shredding trucks and guaranteed all documents and digital devices were completely destroyed. Perhaps with our help, their double case of fraud wouldn’t have ever happened.

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