Risk & Compliance

Bad Sign

Using erasable ink is a very common fraud technique used by bookkeepers.
Marie LeoneApril 1, 2002

Fraud comes in all sizes. In late February, a former Bear, Stearns & Co. secretary pleaded guilty to using disappearing ink to make more than $800,000 fade from her boss’s bank accounts, according to an Associated Press report. Anamarie Giambrone used the trick pen to write checks for senior managing director Eli Wachtel. After the checks were signed, Giambrone would erase the name of the payee and rewrite them for cash.

Using erasable ink is a very common fraud technique used by bookkeepers in small companies, says Gary Zeune, president of The Pros and The Cons, a Columbus, Ohio-based speakers bureau for white-collar criminals. It works because the bookkeeper figures out that management never looks at the bank statement. That’s “a big mistake,” cautions Zeune, who says eyeing bank statements is a standard internal-control procedure.

Statistics back up his warning. In a key 1996 study, the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners discovered that the average organization loses about 6 percent of annual revenue to employee fraud and financial abuse. By the way, Giambrone broke the glass ceiling for fraud: the median loss caused by women is about $48,000; by men, about $185,000.