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Workplace Fraud - it can happen to anyone, anytime..even you

Posted in Guest Blogger @ Nov 21st 2013 - By Anonymous
Workplace Fraud Its A Fact

On Wednesday 20/11 I posted this link from Smart Company on Facebook Seven red flags for payroll fraud with the following comment: “A horrible thought I know but it does pay to be sure....”

That afternoon I received a private message from a Vetanswers member who was close to someone who had experienced workplace fraud more than once. She agreed to write a blog post outlining her friend’s experiences of fraud and how they had almost destroyed his life. 

Her aim is to get the message out there that workplace fraud can happen to anyone (even you!) and the impact can be devastating.  Due to the personal nature of the information, we agreed it was best to publish this blog post anonymously.

Seriously – if I hadn’t been involved with this person on a family level, I would never have thought that this could happen once, let alone the number of times it has occurred to the same person.  I have watched a lovely gentle man become a mere shell of himself as a result of the things that have happened to him over the years; a man who once had great confidence shattered by years of betrayal. After reading a blog on Vetanswers Facebook Page about Payroll Fraud, I had to let people know it can happen to you.

My friend was a successful business owner for many years.  The first instance of fraud happened within his company and the person responsible was sacked and no charges were pursued.  My friend then placed someone in charge of the books that he felt he could trust with his life – his wife!

All seemed to be going well, however he later discovered she had been systematically syphoning money from the company. Now I suppose technically it was her money because she was married to the business owner and that means what is his is hers, however that part was unable to be proven anyway. The ultimate betrayal occurred when she then started an affair with a staff member. Between the two of them, they also syphoned off funds from the business.

When my friend discovered the affair, it was suggested to the staff member that he leave and he agreed. All mayhem then broke loose and the wife decided she was too uncomfortable to continue working within the business premises as the rest of the staff were aware of the drama. She decided to work from home, however it was then discovered that she was continuing to pay the staffer who had left. Further drama ensued and an investigation of the books discovered the extent of what they, and more to the point, she had been up to.

Coping with this betrayal on so many levels was difficult for this gentle man but he decided not to pursue his wife through the courts for the sake of his children. 

While he was struggling with dealing with the divorce he hired a book keeper. My friend understandably was now not so trusting and so went over the accounts every week – something the new book keeper thought he wasn’t smart enough (or with it enough emotionally) to do. He caught her out falsifying cheque amounts. As he was struggling with the divorce proceedings, he approached the book keeper with his findings. She admitted her wrong doings, agreed to work for a few weeks without pay (under supervision) to pay back the amount stolen and then quietly left.

Another person was employed to take on the book keeper/office manager role; finally the divorce was finalised and all seemed to be going well, until my friend received a phone call from the taxation department.

Unbeknownst to him the ATO had been undertaking an investigation into the affairs of the business as they had noticed some anomalies.  It turned out the new bookkeeper/office manager had through an intricate system of accounts, been sending money that was supposed to be a direct debit to the taxation department to one account then redirecting it to his own account.

This ended up bringing my friend to his knees and due to the fraudulent actions of the Office Manager, he had to close his business owing a significant sum of money to the tax department. The only fortunate thing is that the ATO know who, how and what happened and have advised him that, although the debt will never go away, they may simply choose not to pursue it.

So fraud can be committed by anyone - employees, family members and managers. If you own a business you just can’t afford to blindly believe that it will never happen to you, because it can happen and it might have the same devastating impact on your life as it did on my friend. 

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