Email fraud is common: it even happens at work

email fraud

Did you know that email isn’t – and was never deigned to be – a secure way to communicate? Fake emails can be quickly created and doctored to look real, reliable, legitimate.

We’ve done many investigations that illustrate how easily email can be manipulated. Too often people don’t challenge or question iffy emails.

One of our investigations was about a woman who showed dozens of emails to the HR department where she worked. The emails were supposedly sent from a colleague. They started innocent (with compliments on her looks) but became suggestive. Her colleague denied having sent them.

Forensic Restitution was called in to prove the emails were sent by the colleague and it was the company’s intent was to fire him, but there was no proof that they were sent from his computer. The emails had actually been sent from her computer. She’d figured out how to change email addresses and sent them to herself in order to get the other employee fired.

The two employees happened to sit next to each other and when she was questioned, she admitted that he bothered her, and since she liked her job, she figured the solution was to set him up. She was forced to leave the company.

In another case, a man lied to get hired and also throughout his employment. He started by forging an email from a university about his degree. After working at the company for a time he sent an email to the payroll department pretending to be from his boss, indicating that he was going to get a raise in pay.
Once his three-month probation passed, he sent another email and got a $30,000 bonus. Nothing was ever questioned so he rewarded himself with more money, almost doubling his salary and even added on a year-end bonus. After 18 months he was finally caught.

The fake emails weren’t what tripped him up though; he used the company credit card on vacation. The credit card reported it to the employer to alert that the card had been used. He stole about $400,000 in total.

Through investigating an insurance company in another case, we found an employee had faked emails to receive money for false claims she’d made on behalf of a large client. She submitted eight claims over a year. None were checked because they were within a certain limit.

At the end of the year the department manager was having lunch with the client and the topic of the claims came up. The manager mentioned that it must have been a hard year for the company because of the claims that were submitted. The client said they hadn’t submitted any claims that year, and an investigation was launched. We were able to prove the amount of money she had stolen.

Other details uncovered in the investigation were that she’d had an affair with two of her bosses. They agreed not to tell on her if she didn’t tell their secrets, and she was allowed to resign rather than be fired.

If an email appears odd in any way, it’s better to pick up the phone and call the person to confirm.

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