Since 1996, the ACFE has conducted three more nationwide surveys on occupational fraud. The first was in late 2001 and early 2002, when we developed a new National Fraud Survey to update the data from the original Report to the Nation. CFEs were again asked to provide information on cases they had investigated, and from this information we were able to draw conclusions about how fraud is committed, how it can be classi- fied, and how it affects American business. The results of this study were published in the 2002 Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse. The new study was more than just an updating of the original Report to the Nation, though. It was also an expansion of the original report; we added questions about how the schemes were de- tected, what antifraud measures were used by the victim organizations, and what hap- pened to the fraudsters after they were caught. The new study was smaller—it was based on 663 reported cases of occupational fraud—but it was more focused on how fraud is committed and the measures used to combat it. The ACFE published a third edition, the 2004 Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, based on a third survey completed in 2003 and early 2004 (with only minor revisions from the 2002 survey), which yielded 508 usable cases of occupational fraud.
Our most recent survey was conducted in early 2006 and resulted in the 2006 Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse. The current edition of our Report is based on 1,134 actual cases of occupational fraud—more than twice the number that made up the data set in our 2004 Report. The survey was again expanded, this time to provide data about how specific methods of fraud affect various industries and also how those methods are related to particular departments or job types within organizations. The 2006 survey also included a significant change in methodology that should be noted. In past editions of the Report, we asked respondents to report on any one case they had investigated within the relevant time frame. In our 2006 survey, we asked re- spondents to report on the largest case they had investigated in the past two years. We included this criterion because we believe that in studying how fraud affects organiza- tions, where a limited number of cases can be analyzed, it makes sense to focus on the cases that cause the most harm. However, due to this change in methodology, we did not undertake comparisons of the data from our 2006 survey with the data from our prior surveys.
Because this information is the most up-to-date data at our disposal, most of the sta- tistical data in this book related to the ACFE’s research on occupational fraud will come from the 2006 survey.
Measuring the Costs of Occupational Fraud
Participants in the 2006 National Fraud Survey were asked what percent of gross rev- enues they believe—based on their personal experience and general knowledge—the typical organization in the United States loses to fraud and abuse. The median response was 5 percent, a slight decrease from the 6 percent estimated by respondents in all three previous editions of the survey. Optimistically, this reduction could be viewed as progress in the war against fraud. However, because the responses provided were only estimates, the data should not be read as a literal representation of the true rate of fraud