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'They Owe It to Me': FBI Identifies Top Email Phrases Used by Fraudsters

Bruce Carton | January 8, 2013

What do phrases such as "nobody will find out," "grey area,"and "they owe it to me" have in common?

According to research conducted by Ernst & Young in collaboration with the FBI, these phrases are among the top terms used by employees in emails discussing fraud. E&Y has developed software that companies can use to monitor employees' emails for these phrases and approximately 3,000 other words and phrases that are commonly used in emails by people committing fraud. 


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Rashmi Joshi of Ernst & Young's Fraud Investigation & Disputes Services says that while incriminating email traffic is usually only identified and seized by regulators or investigators after the damage has been done, companies can choose to be proactive in searching emails for red flags using this type of software. Doing so may allow companies to identify and address suspicious behavior before major frauds are perpetrated, according to E&Y.

E&Y says that the top 15 terms used by employees in emails discussing fraud are as follows:

  1. Cover up
  2. Write off
  3. Illegal
  4. Failed investment
  5. Nobody will find out
  6. Grey area
  7. They owe it to me
  8. Do not volunteer information
  9. Not ethical
  10. Off the books
  11. Backdate
  12. No inspection
  13. Pull earnings forward
  14. Special fees
  15. Friendly payments