Four months ago I helped a friend who was running a small business here in the Fraser Valley. He is a one man company that does service contract work in the home renovation sector. The last five years had shown unprecedented growth for his hard work and dedication as his company grew and grew. He was always turning down clients because he was over flowing with work. He never wanted to hire employees because this was his dream, “a one man show,” as he calls it. He knew the good times would end sometime soon, but trying to predict when well, that was never a prime concern for him when you are going full speed. It was last summer that he found out he had suppliers not honouring his credit, or that he would receive bills weeks later that were supposed to be paid in full all of a sudden reappear showing delinquent. That’s when he called me.
He asked me to look at his books and see if I could figure out what was going on. So, I did, and what I found was surprising, but not unexpected. You see, when you are trained to look at financial records and see the tiny anomalies buried within the columns of numbers, it is easy for me to see these patterns. For my friend, the obvious is not so obvious because he only sees the pluses and minuses of his hard work, not the little amounts being taken off each day. When I showed him that he had being bilked over $5000.00 in one year by cheque fraud, he had a little temper-tantrum, but then quickly calmed down. He wanted to scream at his Bank for them allowing these cheques to go through, but I explain to him that this was his problem; Banks have contracted their liability away from this type of fraud. So, we had to clean up the mess and start preventive measures before he was really in trouble.
For the fraudsters, small businesses, like my friend’s, are prime pickings because it is usually the proprietor who does the books–ignorance is bliss for the frauder. I wanted to catch the frauder before he, or she did more damage, but my friend was more concerned about plugging up the money hole and cleaning his good name with the Bank. Anyway, I had filed a letter to the R.C.M.P. in Surrey, BC asking them, or inviting them, to look into the matter. While I was waiting to hear back from the police, which took three weeks, I found the name of who was doing the frauding and started a claim, filed in Surrey Small Claims Court, that same day. When the dust settled, my friend soon realized that the frauder was his brother’s girl friend when he read the person’s name from the Bank printout!
Today, a lovely basket of flowers and a seasonal wrapped gift was delivered to me by my friend in appreciation of helping him with dealing with this tragic matter. He told me that his brother’s x-girl friend is on her way to court, and the police found files upon files of phony cheques and other document from at least twenty business inside her home. Sadly, I told him, the likelihood of recovering his money is very small, but he understood, and excepted that catching the thief was far more important than having the fraud scheme go on.