Watch out for Christmas Grinches with their hands in the till, warns KPMG

The Grinch might have stolen Christmas, but it’s unscrupulous employees stealing at Christmas that corporates need to watch out for.

According to Priya Guiliani, partner in KPMG’s Forensic Risk Consulting practice, “the threat from within” at this time of year is fraud committed by workers who are taking advantage of festive distractions to submit false figures and claims, steal stock or “misappropriate” assets.

This is because companies that are winding down for the holidays tend to be less vigilant, relaxing their usual safety checks, explains Guiliani.

Money can be tight at this time of year with higher than usual spending leading to additional pressures on employees.  Combine this with a time of year when targets and bonuses are assessed and it is easy to see how employees can be tempted to falsify sales or overstate performance, so they look like they are hitting targets,” she says.

We have also seen a marked rise in ‘payment diversion fraud’, where fake requests are made to change supplier’s bank details so that funds are diverted into the fraudster’s own bank account.”

According to KPMG, these losses can be huge. One business covered by their analysis lost £30,000 in a single transaction, while another saw a total of £5m siphoned off. In nearly all cases, says Guiliani, the fraudsters are hiding in plain sight, take advantage of existing corporate relationships.

Worryingly, she adds, the culprits often “rationalise” their behaviour to downplay the wrongdoing.

They may believe that they are only ‘borrowing’ the money from their employer to tide them over an expensive Christmas, but the fact is that their actions can have serious repercussions on an organisation’s financial stability,” says Guiliani.

It’s something that cannot be ignored because, if it is, any business falling victim to fraud is more likely to be a ghost to Christmas future.”