Have you ever gone to lunch with a friend (or colleague for that matter) and heard them utter the phrase, “My company’s got this” as they picked up the tab? You didn’t discuss business, you weren’t a client or a prospective client, but they still reached for the bill and charged it to their corporate card. It may seem harmless, but it’s an example of expense fraud, and it’s more common than you might think. Sometimes employees view expense fraud as a victimless crime. Perhaps they think that insurance covers it or that small discrepancies don’t matter in such a large budget, they could even think that the budget accounts for overspend.
Every little bit adds up, with some estimating that U.S. companies lose a whopping $2.8 billion dollars a year to expense fraud. The crazy part is, 40% of that typically goes undetected. On average, for small businesses, mid to upper level executives carry out the majority of expense fraud, it usually takes two years for the company to catch wise, costing businesses $33,000 on average before they detect the expense fraud. That amount of lost revenue could cripple a small business. It’s a widespread issue, but there are ways to identify and eliminate it from your equation.
Types of Expense Fraud
There are four main categories of expense fraud. Some people might get creative and not fit neatly into these categories, but these are the big ones:
- Misclassification of Expenses. This is the most common form of expense fraud. The example we gave at the beginning falls under this category. It involves the submission of any expense report that contains personal or non-business related expenses (restaurants, hotels, car rentals, etc.).
- Inventing Expenses. This form of expense fraud includes fictitious expenses submitted as business expenses. For example, an employee could create fake receipts for taxi rides or client dinners and pepper them into a legitimate expense report. They spend no money, fabricate an expense, and pocket the reimbursement.
- Duplicate reimbursements. In this tricky form of expense fraud, the employee submits the same expense multiple times in different ways. They could submit a receipt from their credit card or bank AND a receipt from the merchant. They’re both the same expense, but they get reimbursed for it twice. Another example would include the sneaky employee submitting the same receipt on separate expense reports, maybe even months apart.
- The Ticket Switch. In this version of expense fraud, the perpetrator purchases an airline ticket, cancels it, then submits a reimbursement request. They could also purchase a higher-priced ticket, change the reservation for a lower amount and request a voucher for the difference in fare, but still file an expense report for the higher amount.
Well, now that we’ve made you sufficiently paranoid, how do you root this out and avoid it within your organization?
Tips for Searching Out and Destroying Expense Fraud
You could dedicate your resources to converting your finance department into a team of super sleuths. Or, you could educate key players in the expense process to recognize the warning signs and empower them to take action within your organization.
- Unusual Behavior. Be on the lookout for actions or activities that divert from the norm. This could include cancelling flights and trips, or frequently rescheduling them, or something as simple as a drastic change in lifestyle without a pay raise (e.g., car upgrades, extravagant spending).
- Involve Management. Educate managers and employees involved in expense processing about the types of expense fraud and set up a reward system for locating discrepancies like duplicate reimbursements or frequent ticket switches (pro tip – include and anonymity clause so they don’t feel put on the spot). You can’t be everywhere, so involving your team increases your visibility.
- Audit Often. If anything looks out of the ordinary, verify receipts with vendors and institute a process that includes random expense report audits. If employees know that you are cracking down on expense fraud, it acts as a deterrent to future attempts.
- Get Divvy. Divvy’s platform eliminates filing expenses and employee reimbursement, so the incentive to defraud the system drops drastically (think zero). You can also institute controls and expense policies within your Divvy App budgets to make sure everything gets approved before employees spend. You essentially eliminate the means and opportunity for employees to commit expense fraud. Simple.
Necessity is the Mother of Invention
Businesses have viewed expense reports as a necessary evil, but they’re not necessary, they’re just evil. When our clients ask why we decided to mix things up, we tell them that Divvy was born from truly hating expense reports and the entire business expense management process, and it’s true. We didn’t want to make an incremental improvement on how businesses treat finances. We wanted to flip reactive expense management on its head.
The Divvy App works with our smarter corporate cards to end overspend, eliminate expense fraud, and make business budgets better. The best part about our platform is that it’s proactive. Instead of reacting to receipts and expenses after they happen, you control your money at the point of spend. Spenders tap a category, swipe their card, and that’s it. Everything else happens automatically from swipe to books. Oh, and it’s free. What’s the ROI on free? We’re not mathematicians, but we’re pretty sure it’s one billion percent.
We dug deep to create the world’s first free, fully-automated budgeting and expense management platform, and it gives you instantaneous visibility into company-wide spend. Born from loathing a truly broken process, Divvy turned that legitimate dislike into the catalyst to reinvent. Not even innovate: burn to the ground, salt the earth, and build something that works on new ground—from scratch.
Divvy is the first free and fully automated spend management platform.
Get a free demo to learn more.