I use Google alerts with the key word “embezzlement.” Google send me emails throughout the day with links to any News stories that appear regarding embezzlement.
I receive anywhere from six to twelve emails, every day, with anywhere from one to five story links within each email. Many of the stories involve someone being arrested or charged with embezzlement, and the amounts range from thousands of dollars to multi-millions. The stories also span the globe, with today’s links featuring an embezzlement by a revenue collector in the Fiji Islands, a low level official from China who fled to Canada allegedly with $14 million in embezzled funds, and two individuals in South Korea accused of embezzling $20.6 million.
Today’s links also included a Red Cross chapter, yet another volunteer fire department, and numerous bookkeepers and other individuals within companies here in the United States.
The statistic widely recognized in the fraud community is one in nine (1/9) fraud cases become publicly known, which means for every Google alert I receive, there are eight more that I should receive. Google doesn’t know about those cases, and never will. My experience has been this statistic is reasonably accurate. Most cases are quietly settled and resolved. Many victim organizations would prefer avoiding the negative publicity that could accompany the news article, and in some cases the publicity could pose a greater negative impact to the organization than the theft itself. In many cases the embezzled funds are gone, eliminating any change of recovery or restitution from the suspect. Insurance is the common source of recovery, and once paid, the claim is subrogated to the insurance company to recover from the suspect. It is also common for the potential cost of the investigation to exceed the potential theft itself, bringing a potential investigation to a quick end.
Given the frequency of Google alerts I have received in the last six months, the question is this: is there more theft and stealing going on today, or are systems and procedures in place to better identify and detect these schemes when they occur, increasing the detection rate as opposed to the incident rate?
Here’s a link to Google News “embezzlement” for today: