Follow these 8 principles and
you too can gain the green.
Principle 1 – If you’re going to steal, get close to the money. Much fraud happens in the accounting or finance departments.
We’ll take one woman’s story as an example. April Leigh Mathews, age 40, was hired as an office manager in Idaho.
Principle 2 – Defraud the devout. Because they look for and believe in the best instincts in people, they won’t be as suspicious.
Mrs. Mathews was hired by a couple who ran The Luke Commission, a faith-based charitable organization. Dr. Harry VanderWal and his wife, Echo, are a young religious couple who’ve been providing the people of Swaziland in southern Africa with healthcare services, especially fighting AIDS, since 2004.
Principle 3 – Your victims easily confuse proximity with trust. They may think that because they’re close to you for a long time, they know your heart, and your intentions.
Echo VanderWal trained Mrs. Mathews as an office manager for almost 10 months.
Principle 4 – Learn the financial or accounting systems used. Most systems have a weakness, especially in small businesses and charities.
Mrs. Mathews likely put her 10 months of training to good use.
Principle 5 – Find an employer who’s an "absentee boss" – one who leaves you alone so your fraudulent activities will be harder to spot.
The couple and their children traveled to Swaziland for their charitable work.
Principle 6 – The meat and potatoes of fraud. Here’s where the money starts rolling in. These are your tactics:
- Contact the company’s webmaster and reactivate an old email address. That way, you can use that address so any emails will be sent only to you.
- Open multiple credit card accounts in your name on the business owner’s credit card account. Be sure to change phone numbers and postal addresses on any accounts you’ve opened in your name.
- Purchase items you need or want using the company credit cards.
- Forge the business owner’s signature on checks, which you then divert to yourself or your family. To cover those checks, get cash advances from the credit cards.
- If you have responsibility for your own paycheck (and you should), overpay yourself.
- Hire your own company to do work for the business and overcharge or charge for work that was not done. (Mrs. Mathews and her husband owned a company called Planet Golf & Landscaping.)
Principle 7 – Have an exit strategy. Here’s where most scammers get caught. Eventually, there’s not enough money where there should be, and scrutiny will occur.
Mrs. Mathews did not follow this principle. She was caught, must repay $109,486, spend 15 months in federal prison, and after her release undergo five years of supervised probation.
Principle 8 – Make sure your victims can forgive you.
This is a corollary to Principle 2. If you get caught, defrauding the devout will prevent you from a worse punishment because they’ll be more willing to forgive. Defrauding organized crime, for instance, is not a good strategy.
– Woman pleads guilty to making false statements in credit card applications, US District Attorney’s Office, District of Idaho>>
– Mathews sentenced in TLC embezzlement case, Bonner County Daily Bee>>
– The Luke Commission>>