This is what a fraudster looks like in South Africa


Economic crime means billions lost by the private sector and government through theft and fraud every year in South Africa.

Kirsten Halcrow, CEO of background screening company, EMPS, said although the latest crime statistics released by SAPS showed a decrease in commercial crime, many corporates do not report cases of internal fraud and theft for fear of damaging a company’s reputation.

Denise Kisten, financial executive of Business Against Crime, a public private partnership that supports both the private sector and government in the fight against crime, said in the retail environment, the majority of crime is committed by employees that had access to business information.

Kisten said the majority of fraudsters are only identified after the appointment of the employee.

“A potential employee who has been unemployed for a period of time is likely to have a tarnished credit record. By means of a background check possible fraud could be mitigated.”

Kisten warned that while reputational damage may or may not be caused as a result of the criminal case, there could be more serious repercussions when affiliated businesses/partners become aware that employees that committed fraud were merely dismissed.

“This will undoubtedly question the integrity of the business,” she said.

In a fraud survey conducted by auditing firm PwC, it was found that South African companies experienced more fraud and bribery than their counterparts elsewhere in the world.

This includes being hit by a higher incidence in every category of economic crime except intellectual property infringement and mortgage fraud, PwC said in its Global Economic Crime Survey 2014.

Bribery and corruption had been the fastest growing economic crime category in South Africa since 2011.

Profile of a fraudster

The survey found senior management was the main perpetrator of economic crimes committed in the country.

The survey results indicate that the typical internal fraudster is:

  • Male
  • Aged between 31 and 40,
  • Has worked for his employer for more than 10 years
  • Has acquired a first university degree

“This profile is consistent with South African organisations reporting that senior and middle management commit 77% of all internal fraud.”

Halcrow said 2015 was proving to be a record year for credentials cheats with criminal record checks for prospective employees now topping 12%. – up from 11% last year.

She said 38% of the candidates who tested positive for a criminal record were repeat offenders, with some job applicants having up to 20 convictions.

“We have reached the point where there is no place to hide for criminals and qualifications fraudsters to enter the job market because screening procedure have become so sophisticated over the past years that is has become almost impossible to beat the system.”

Recent statistics show that 65% of the job applicants who tested positive for criminal records committed offences in the past 10 years.

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