In the world of finance, trust is paramount. Companies rely on the accuracy and integrity of their financial records to make informed decisions, build strong relationships with suppliers, and maintain a reputation of fiscal responsibility. However, accounts payable fraud remains a pervasive threat that can undermine these pillars of financial stability. 

In this blog post, we will explore the common methods of accounts payable fraud, shed light on how these schemes work, and discuss prevention strategies that can safeguard your organization’s financial health.

Common Accounts Payable Fraud Tactics

1. Invoice Fraud

Invoice fraud is one of the most prevalent forms of accounts payable fraud. According to our poll, 89% of accounts payable teams have received a spoof or scam invoice.

In this scheme, fraudsters create fake invoices or manipulate legitimate ones to divert funds into their pockets. The culprits may inflate invoice amounts, change payment details to redirect funds to their own accounts, or even create entirely fictitious vendors to bill the company.

To combat invoice fraud, companies should implement rigorous invoice verification processes, including cross-referencing invoices with purchase orders and maintaining a comprehensive list of approved vendors. Regular audits can help identify discrepancies and discrepancies in your accounts payable records.

2. Ghost Vendors

Ghost vendors are fictional entities set up by fraudsters to siphon money from a company. They create the illusion of legitimate vendors, complete with false invoices, contact information, and bank details. Once payments are processed, the fraudsters abscond with the funds.

Preventing ghost vendor fraud involves conducting thorough due diligence when onboarding new vendors. Verification of vendor identities, confirmation of bank account details, and regular reviews of vendor activity can help root out these fictitious entities.

3. Check Tampering

Check tampering is a deceptive accounts payable fraud scheme where an insider, often an employee, alters checks issued by the company. This can involve changing the payee’s name or the amount on the check or diverting the check to a personal account.

To prevent check tampering, implement dual control processes for check issuance and regularly reconcile bank statements to ensure there are no unauthorized transactions. Electronic payments and Positive Pay services offered by banks can also add layers of security against check tampering.

4. Overbilling

Overbilling occurs when a vendor submits an invoice for goods or services that were never delivered, were of inferior quality, or were not in line with the agreed-upon terms. The excess amount is then pocketed by the vendor, who hopes it goes unnoticed.

Companies can protect themselves from overbilling by maintaining meticulous records, scrutinizing invoices for discrepancies, and enforcing robust procurement and receipt verification procedures.

5. Vendor Collusion

Vendor collusion is a particularly challenging form of accounts payable fraud, as it involves collusion between an insider and an external vendor. In this scheme, an employee authorizes payments to a vendor for goods or services that were never delivered or were significantly overpriced. In return, the vendor provides kickbacks or other incentives to the complicit employee.

Preventing vendor collusion demands a strong separation of duties and regular internal and external audits to detect unusual patterns of vendor payments. Additionally, promoting a culture of ethics and integrity within the organization can discourage such fraudulent behavior.

6. Expense Reimbursement Fraud

Expense reimbursement fraud involves employees submitting fictitious or exaggerated expense reports to receive unauthorized payments. Common tactics include inflating expenses, creating fake receipts, or submitting expenses for personal items.

To thwart expense reimbursement fraud, implement strict expense policies, require original receipts for reimbursement, and conduct periodic audits of expense reports to identify irregularities.

7. Duplicate Payments

Duplicate payments often arises from administrative errors, such as inadvertently processing the same invoice or payment twice. Fraudsters can exploit these errors to funnel funds into their own accounts.

Implementing a robust accounts payable system with controls to identify and prevent duplicate payments is crucial to prevent this type of fraud. Automation and regular reconciliation of payments can help spot and rectify such errors promptly.

Preventing Accounts Payable Fraud

Preventing accounts payable fraud is a multifaceted endeavor that combines people, processes, and technology. Here are some key strategies to minimize your organization’s vulnerability:

1. Segregation of Duties: Separating the responsibilities of approving invoices, making payments, and reconciling accounts can help prevent fraud.

2. Vendor Verification: Conduct thorough background checks and due diligence when onboarding new vendors.

3. Regular Audits: Conduct regular internal and external audits to identify irregularities and discrepancies in your financial records.

4. Strong Policies: Establish clear and comprehensive policies for accounts payable and expense management.

5. Employee Training: Train employees to recognize red flags and report any suspicious activity promptly.

6. Automation: Utilize accounts payable software and automated verification processes to reduce the risk of human error.

7. Monitoring Tools: Implement monitoring tools to track vendor performance and payment patterns.

8. Ethical Culture: Foster a culture of integrity and ethics within your organization to deter potential fraudsters.


Accounts payable fraud poses a significant threat to organizations. But with vigilance, preventive measures, and a commitment to ethical practices, you can protect your company’s financial health. Staying informed about common methods of accounts payable fraud is the first step toward safeguarding your organization and its bottom line.

Learn how to spot the signs of fraud and check out our on-demand webinar:
Are Fraudsters Targeting Your AP Department?

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