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What is a ghost employee?

Embezzlement may seem to you to be such a deliberate action that you may think that no one can engage in it without knowing exactly what is it that they are doing. Thus, you may feel secure in the notion that you will never face such accusations. What happens, then, when you are blindsided with accusations that you have been conspiring with ghosts? 

"Ghost employees" are a particular type of fraud scheme that law enforcement authorities have been dealing with for quite some time. According to the Journal of Accountancy, a ghost employee is just that: someone who does not exist. People have been accused of creating alternative personas using the names of former employees, deceased family members or friends, or even simply making up names with the goal of establishing employment records for them that would allow them to be paid. The perpetrators of these schemes would then take the money being paid to the ghost employees for themselves. 

Employers have been told to look for the following red flags when trying to spot ghost employees: 

  • Employment records with multiple names linked to a single Social Security number
  • Employees doing a majority of their work at remote locations
  • Employees requesting paper checks instead of having their payroll funds directly deposited into their bank accounts

Of course, there may be perfectly legitimate scenarios where the aforementioned actions occur. You may have changed your name after having been married, and thus show two names in your employment file. Your job might indeed require you to work remotely, or you may not have your own personal checking or savings account. The bottom line is none of the aforementioned actions alone prove you are trying to embezzle funds; criminal intent must still be present for a crime to have been committed. 

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