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Covid-19 impact: Investigators find sudden spurt in job related frauds due to WFH

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A social media company in June realised that an executive that they had hired a few months back had never resigned from his earlier role and continued to work for both companies at the same time.

The executive’s reporting head had first raised red flags after he came upon some work documents, which had coding formats used by competitors.

Forensic investigations found that not only was the executive taking two salaries, but he was able to pass on the same work to both his employers.

And this wasn’t a one off case.

Job-related frauds have touched an all-time high in India amidst work from home due to the pandemic.

While precise figures are hard to come by, investigators say anecdotal evidence suggests a 50% year-on-year jump in the number of such cases.

The investigations have also seen a spurt in employees leaking data, exaggerating educational qualifications and past experiences.

“Due to the pandemic, we have also seen a spurt in data theft, data breaches and other cyber-related incidents where employees have been involved,” said Nikhil Bedi, partner and leader-forensic, financial advisory at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP. “Since employees have been working from home, this has been a challenge for a fair number of organisations to monitor.”

Companies have also increased background checks and are roping in investigators to check if there is anything amiss.

Insiders say companies are wary about hiring on Zoom as HR and hiring managers are unable to form a rounded opinion of candidates.

“Recently, we have seen a large number of background check requests for senior management,” said Maneesha Garg, partner and co-head-forensic services at KPMG in India. “This is a result of private equity investments or mergers and acquisitions happening during the turbulent times in the last 12 months.”

Investigators say at a time when they don’t have enough boots on the ground, they are relying heavily on technology.

“Over the course of the last year, we have significantly leveraged technology for background verification checks of both CXOs and executives,” said Rohit Madan, partner-forensic, financial advisory at Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu India LLP. “Apart from executives submitting degrees from a fake college or exaggerating their skills or job responsibilities on their CVs, investigations have also found that many of them were concealing facts about litigation against them, conflicts of interest or sometimes even unpleasant/unethical incidents in their earlier organisations.”

Recently, a large conglomerate realised that a candidate who was shortlisted for a senior vice president post was actually sacked for “integrity” issues. The executive had created a separate company and was selling some goods to his old employer and taking a commission for that.

In another case—also involving a senior executive working in a multinational IT firm—the candidate was asked to put in his papers after allegations of sexual harassment surfaced.

The executive had not disclosed this to his hiring manager, but there were some tweets around this.

Investigators charge around Rs 4,000 per background check for junior employees and between Rs 2 lakh and Rs 5 lakh for a detailed one for CXOs and other senior executives.

Investigators say during the pandemic, some of the unicorns too have started getting background checks for drivers or delivery boys for criminal activities.

In some cases, investors are roping in investigators to check if the CEO or founder of the startup or company they are investing in has any skeletons in the closet.

“Investors and business partners want top management with high trust and integrity levels,” said Garg.

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