Embezzling money from the employer is a temptation too strong for some to resist.
The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE), a professional association of 30,000 anti-fraud specialists, puts a high cost on occupational fraud and abuse. According to its most recent Report to the Nation on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, losses topped $761 million in the U.S., with the typical organization losing 6 percent of its annual revenues to fraud.
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The most common schemes are asset misappropriations, such as skimming revenue, stealing inventory or payroll fraud. “Not surprisingly,” the 2004 report said, “the asset that was most frequently targeted was cash. Of 471 asset misappropriation cases we reviewed, 93 percent involved the misappropriation of cash.”
Take the case of a bookkeeper for an elementary school in Bastrop, La. who confessed to stealing $17,000 since the school year began. Instead of depositing the money into the Morehouse Parish School System account, she kept the cash for herself. After an internal audit turned up the discrepancy, she was arrested on suspicion of felony theft on March 3, the Bastrop Daily Enterprise reported.
And in Arizona, a part-time bookkeeper who earned only $400 a month for the Los Olivos Water Delivery and Irrigation District, was charged earlier this month with embezzling about $89,000 between 2002 and 2005. She was charged with four counts of theft for money embezzled between 2002 and 2005.
The Arizona Republic reported that Michelle Blanchard, 39, would ask the water district's board members to sign blank checks, supposedly so she could pay the district's bills, but would cash the checks instead.
What did she do with the taxpayer money? According to the Maricopa County Attorney's Office, Blanchard bought a 2006 Chevrolet pickup truck.
In one case in Sterling, Colo., a secretary for a construction company used her access to employees' personal information, including their Social Security numbers, to steal the identity of at least one employee. She allegedly purchased about $6,000 worth of merchandise, including computers, cell phones and items from Dillard's department store. She was caught after the victim started hearing from Dell about unpaid bills for computers he never purchased, the Journal-Advocate reported.
The ACFE says that fraud is uncovered more often by employee tips than through audits or other methods, and that confidential hotlines reduce fraud significantly.