Top ten email terms used by shady corporations and fraudsters

Summary:Up to no good? Stay away from "cover up," "failed investment" and "nobody will find out," -- the FBI's on to you.

fbi track emails corporate fraud terms phrases

Considering how often emails are used as evidence against less-than-honest financiers and corporations on the sly, businesses should take note.

The FBI, in collaboration with Ernst & Young, have developed new software which scans email communication and lists the most common buzzwords and phrases used which may suggest the presence of corporate fraud. Based on real-life examples of corporate and financial fraud that ended up in the courtroom after investigation, a number of phrases including "Nobody will find out," "cover up" and "failed investment" make the list.

The Financial Times reports that in bribery cases, expressions including "special fees" and "friendly payments" most commonly crop up in cases involving bribery. For skittish staff members who are fearful of the consequences, "no inspection" and "do not volunteer information" is present, and for those feeling panic, "want no part of this" and "don't leave a trail" crop up.

A little misguided since the evidence is written electronically.

There are currently over 3,000 terms stored in the scanning software which would raise a flag for further scrutiny -- reminiscent of the terms U.S. government agencies monitor on social networks to combat terrorism. The software is also able to capture rapid changes in tone and language, highlighting conversations out-of-the-ordinary among traders.

In addition, the FBI's new tool tracks phrases which suggest the recipients want to conduct their business in a dark corner, including "call my mobile" or "come to my office."

Rashmi Joshi, director of Ernst & Young's fraud investigation and disputes services, told the FT:

"The language, which is a mix of accounting phrases, personal motivations and attempts to conceal, are very revealing. While most organisations only focus on the numbers when investigating discrepancies, what we are seeing are ways of analysing words -- emails, SMS or instant messaging -- to identify and isolate wrongdoing."

The top words and phrases used in email conversations which may suggest shady dealings are:

  • Cover up
  • Write off
  • Illegal
  • Failed investment
  • Nobody will find out
  • Grey area
  • They owe it to me
  • Do not volunteer information
  • Not ethical
  • Off the books

Topics: Enterprise 2.0, Government : US, Tech Industry


Charlie Osborne, a medical anthropologist who studied at the University of Kent, UK, is a journalist, freelance photographer and former teacher. She has spent years travelling and working across Europe and the Middle East as a teacher, and has been involved in the running of businesses ranging from media and events to B2B sales. Charli... Full Bio

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