Fall is a special time of year. The cooler weather is refreshing, the leaves are turning amazing colors, and candy corn is available almost everywhere. I enjoy seeing plump pumpkins, straw-filled scarecrows, and colorful Indian corn. I also look forward to wearing my coat or warming up next to a nice hot fire, which unfortunately doesn’t happen too often here in south Louisiana.
Fraudsters love fall, too. The following are a few ways fraudsters spend their ill-gotten gains during the autumn season:
- Expensive football season tickets, traveling first-class to away games, and elaborate tailgating activities are ways fraudsters like to spend the money taken from their employers. Throughout my career, I have seen this in more than one investigation. When you see this kind of activity taken to an extreme, you should consider it a red flag for possible fraud.
- Some fraudsters will start planning and paying for their fancy ski vacations with their families or extramarital partners. Traveling to picturesque or exotic locations is a popular way for fraudsters to live beyond their means. Be aware of people with access to financial responsibilities within your organization planning their next getaway.
- Finally, there is also that rare fraudster who likes to go to the extreme when decorating for Halloween. A staff accountant working at a construction material supply company purchased six talking trees, like the ones in The Wizard of Oz, for $3,000 each to decorate her home for Halloween. She had many other decorations, high-end cars, and other toys—some of which you can see here. This is an extreme case that involved a fraudster who stole $6.9 million from her employer.
Next time you find out someone is making these large types of purchases, consider the person’s ability to generate that type of income. If it seems unreasonable, ask them about it. Identifying red flags and asking questions are important ways for us to identify fraud. Also, don’t forget that the Christmas season is right around the corner and fraudsters will need to buy gifts for their loved ones.
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