We will be having a chat with the President of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, De Wet Ferreira.

We will be having a chat with the President of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, De Wet Ferreira.

He leads an association recognised as the largest anti-fraud organisation and premier anti-fraud training and education provider. With over 85,000 members, the ACFE has played an enormous role in preventing private-sector fraud worldwide and inspiring public confidence in the integrity and objectivity within the profession.

1. Thank you, chairperson, for joining us today for this interview, where we will celebrate International Fraud Week Awareness. To kick-start the discussion, I just wanted to know why you wanted to fight the battle of fraud in South Africa.

Thank you, but for me, it all started when I was a young man in the SA Airforce Police, where I saw the impact of theft and fraud in the SANDF. I found it interesting to do investigations and try to find out how it’s done and who did it, and it escalated from there to where it is not a job but a passion.

2. South Africa is currently facing a constant increase in inflation. Consumers are vulnerable at this point to any fraud crimes. I was just wondering how your association or the government helps ordinary people who have suffered from fraud besides launching an investigation.

One should understand that Fraud Investigations and the work of CFEs (Certified Fraud Examiners) is not just investigation but a lot more, including fraud prevention and detection, recovery of losses and implementation of corrective measures. If we do not fix or plug the gaps or deficiencies in the systems, we will do the same investigations over and over until infinity. Initiatives such as International Fraud Awareness Week are just one of the ways we, the government, and various stakeholders try to educate the public on the impact of fraud, the do’s and don’ts, and more. We try to educate the public and push and encourage our stakeholders to do the same, and you will see on just about any entity that has a website, there will be notes and examples of how fraudsters try to get your details and what to do to prevent it. The concern is that the human factor comes into play, where the public is under pressure, and there is a thought process that it wouldn’t happen to me until you get scammed, and fraudsters prey on the old and the vulnerable.

3. As we know, Gauteng is South Africa's economic hub but is facing very intense fraud levels. According to SAFPS, Gauteng makes up 62% of the country's total fraud incidents. What would you say are the reasons for this increase in fraud?

The increase in fraud is exactly that, and it’s all about the money. The more money available and in circulation, the more opportunity there is for fraud and fraudsters to gain access and try to get hold of that money. It is almost the opposite of “safety in numbers” because the more transactions and money, the more opportunity and fraudsters you will get. I also do not think there is such a massive increase in fraud incidents, I think we are just now reporting it better and more than before, and there are better statistics about it. There is also a massive amount of fraud that is not reported for various reasons and because of the low confidence levels in the SAPS and the justice system’s ability to solve these crimes.

4. Increased digital activity in South Africa has caused a rise in cybercrimes. This is a relatively new challenge for the business world and the general population. For someone unaware of cybercrimes or even how to protect themselves from them. What is cybercrime, and how can we avoid it?

Cybercrime is definitely on the rise, especially ransom and hacking incidents that need to be properly quantified in our statistics. Still, normal cybercrime is one of the most common practices for fraud, where there are phishing scams where people’s personal details, including passwords, are used to gain access to bank accounts and other platforms. Simple examples are Facebook accounts being hacked as we know it, where fraudsters get access to your accounts and use that access for illicit reasons. Any crime accessed through an electronic device is part and parcel of a cybercrime. Most of the time, we indirectly and unsuspectedly give access to fraudsters who control your account. The recently launched Cybercrimes Bill defines cybercrimes, and various ways and means of cybercrimes are described in the act. The most important preventative measure is to refrain from clicking or opening unknown links or pages once you have done that, you have probably already provided access to the fraudsters.

5. Security and innovation are essential elements in the fight against fraud. Is our country's security kept up to date with the constant innovation fraudsters keep showcasing?

No, we are not up to date, and it is a process of catching up most of the time, and very few preventative measures are ahead of the fraudsters. Unfortunately, fraudsters also use experts to look for ways and means to defraud us, as we use experts to prevent it. We do not value our cyber experts enough in this country and mistakenly companies use normal IT personnel for Cyber Security as a result of the cost, until it’s too late. Unfortunately, it will always be a cost issue, but we forget what it will cost when there is a ransom attack or a data breach until it is too late.

6. What is the theme for International Fraud Awareness Week, and what is your association doing to support this?

The theme is Fraud Awareness, and the purpose is to educate the public, government and all other stakeholders that don’t fight fraud daily, to educate and inform them of the latest trends, provide statistics and information to assist them in protecting themselves as well as their families and employees, employers and any other people that we can reach with the IFAW.

7. As an association leader, how would you advise other association boards to influence change within their unique industries?

We, as the ACFE SA work together with various other associations and organisations on a daily basis in the fight against fraud and educating the public and members respectively. One such committee would be the King Committee where Jaco de Jager our CEO represents us in the process of ensuring that the recommendations made by the King committee also includes CFE’s and fraud fighters as well as aspects of fraud prevention, detection and investigation in King IV, and the same with SAICA, SAIPA, ISO Committees and various other institutions.

We try to educate others, including boards and company executives on the impact and dangers of fraud in an attempt to have them focus more on the prevention and detection before a crime is committed and then the reactive measures such as investigations and recovery. One very easy way is to do pre-employment vetting on prospective employees to identify the risk they might pose before they are employed, rather than trying to get them out of the system after fraud was committed. Prevention is definitely better than cure

8. How does your association go about spreading fraud awareness?

We, as an Association, use all the available platforms to do training, awareness and educating the public and members out there. Training through various ways such as social media, monthly and quarterly newsletters, awareness campaigns and more or where we can get the message out there.

9. Does your association offer training on avoiding fraud, detect fraud, and reporting fraud?

Our training and awareness are done through all the platforms possible or to our availability. We also have a sister company. The African Training Academy (AFRICA), that does the official training of our members and non-members.

10. How does ACFE plan to get South African people to understand the importance of not participating in or supporting fraudulent behaviour or crimes?

We cannot change everybody’s behaviour and habits, but we can try and educate the public within our reach on what to look for, what to do and especially what not to do. It is a constant process, and we strive to do it better and bigger. We have more than 12,000 people and entities on our mailing list, and we try to get our messages out there as far as possible through our members, partners, and other stakeholders, not just in SA but all over the world and especially in Africa. We also host the 2nd largest Anti-Fraud Conference in the world after the US, and it just gets bigger every year.

11. What projects or initiatives would ACFE be looking into for 2023?

The next year will be a big year for the ACFE SA as we will celebrate our 25th anniversary and host the 16th annual conference at the Sandton Convention Centre in September 2023. We will again host the annual Imbizo where we engage with the top 100 Heads of Forensics from various industries to brainstorm solutions for the industry and get the mandate to explore areas on behalf of our members and the industry in the fight against fraud and corruption in SA.