There’s something special about the holiday season — a feeling of peace and goodwill that helps put the old year in context and get a start on the new one.

Unfortunately, this same holiday spirit makes November and December a prime time for fraudsters to act. No matter how jolly you feel, you should be wary.

Being vigilant may make you feel like a Grinch, but it could also stop someone from stealing your Christmas. 

In the Workplace

Employers who notice workers making suspiciously large purchases or living with a seemingly incongruous level of luxury may be seeing the early signs of fraudsters at work. While it never feels good to suspect your employees, workplace fraud does
occur. The holidays, exerting extra pressure on people to have spending money, may invite these crimes. The following are a few varieties of workplace dishonesty:

1. Timesheet Fraud
In one of the simplest kinds of fraud, employees may decide to give themselves a little extra holiday vacation. This is as simple as filling in a timesheet for hours worked and never showing up, hoping the boss doesn’t notice — or making a deal to commit fraud as a group.

2. Theft of Company Assets
Whether people take items for themselves or set them aside to sell, employees are sometimes caught absconding with their employers’ goods. This could be as small a thing as taking one or two extra rolls of paper towels home, or elaborate enough to intentionally order too much of an item, so there will always be extra on hand to steal.

3. Travel Expenditure Scams
Reimbursing employees for work travel is a system that can be abused. In these instances, the workers book expensive travel or accommodations, get the receipts and file an expense report. Then, they cancel the expensive bookings and purchase
something far more economical, pocketing the difference when they are reimbursed based on the initial receipts.

4. Fake Client Invoicing
Employees can give themselves some ill-gotten money for their Christmas stockings by changing the bank details on a company invoice to their own accounts. This type of crime can be accomplished by hackers who infiltrate a company’s email system,
or by a third party with access to authentic-looking corporate letterhead. In its simplest form, the fraud is carried out internally by the workers who create the invoices.

5. Falsified Material Expenditures
The invoices sent to clients aren’t the only documents that are susceptible to fraud. Employees can manipulate backdated invoices to make purchases seem like they were larger than they in fact were, claiming the cash difference for themselves.

6. Monetary Theft
Misuse of a company card or bank expenses, or skimming from the business’ cash on hand, are simple crimes, but that doesn’t stop people from trying them. Employees who feel entitled to more money may simply try to get away with taking it.

At Home

7. Charity Fraud
It’s normal for people to come around asking for charitable donations at the holidays — which is why fraudsters slip in among their ranks. Thieves may go undetected because it can feel downright mean to suspect charity door-knockers of pocketing the
money. Today’s false charity scams are often carried out on social media channels rather than in person, making it simple for the fraudsters to vanish without a trace once they have the money.

8. Holiday Travel Fund
If you’re taking a trip around the holidays, you should be careful about making the booking. While hotels and services such as Airbnb have accountability regarding
the legitimacy of reservations, people who rent out their properties directly can commit fraud through tactics such as double or triple booking, or even charging guests to stay in apartments that don’t exist at all, with their deception not being found out until the victims arrive.

9. Family Fraud and Elder Abuse
Unscrupulous family members may take advantage of relatives who are in their 70s, 80s or older and suffering from cognitive impairment. By taking control of a parent or grandparent’s accounts, these scammers can fund all their holiday expenditures
with the ill-gotten money, confident their elderly victims will never find out.

10. Third-Party Elder Abuse
Family members aren’t the only ones who can take illegal financial advantage of the elderly. There have been instances of tech support scams in which the perpetrators charged enormous fees to older customers with a poor grasp of technology, took
control of their computers or both.

11. Cyber Fraud
The surge in online purchasing as gift-giving season approaches can bring an accompanying increase in financial crimes. There are several ways to defraud consumers online, including creating fake e-commerce websites and sending out phishing emails that harvest victims’ personal data or bank account information. Being a little less trusting online is good advice at all times, and essential during the holidays.

12. Parcel Theft
There’s no need to commit a high-tech crime for people seeking ill-gotten gains around Christmas. They can simply snatch packages off of home doorsteps right after they are delivered. With so many online orders occurring, there is no shortage
of boxes, envelopes and other parcels to abscond with.

The end of the year is a time to relax and unwind with family, but the spirit of giving and peace may cover up the dozen crimes described above, along with innumerable others. By not letting cheer turn into complacency, you can keep your workplace —
and home — free of fraud this holiday season.

We're here to help

Give yourself the gift of peace of mind this Christmas.

If you have any concerns about any suspicious activities occurring at your workplace, give your trusted Ulton Advisor a call to see what we can do to help.  

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