Anonymous hoax reports to ethics and whistleblower hotlines

Jul 29, 2021
Audit Financial investigations Financial reporting

RSM’s financial investigation team has become aware of a recent development regarding anonymous reports to ethics and whistleblower hotlines claiming generic potential accounting and (or) corruption concerns. Fortunately for our clients, upon investigation, nearly all such reports appear to be hoax complaints.

Specifically, RSM’s financial investigation team has identified recurring hoax reports claiming that:

  • A co-worker provided discounted pricing to a customer in exchange for future benefit from a large customer’s significant other that, in their capacity as a government official, could provide employment or school admissions opportunities
  • An accounting/finance employee is aware of inflated amounts being charged by a vendor that employs a personal friend of the anonymous source

In June and July blog posts, TheCorporateCounsel.Net also cited examples of recent complaint reports that were repeated across companies and industries. NAVEX Global, a company that administrates corporate hotlines through its EthicsPoint and Alertline systems, has published information on the repetitive hoax reports as well.

It is unclear what the motive or purpose of these widespread anonymous, unsubstantiated reports may be. One somewhat alarming concern by experts in the industry is that bad actors may be targeting well-meaning compliance and legal professionals to respond to the report and, in subsequent messages, perform a social engineering or phishing scheme to gain access to sensitive company networks or information.

We encourage our clients to continue to follow their policies and procedures, with an eye toward whether anonymous general reports, such as those discussed herein, are identical to the published examples. Further, we advise our clients to be cautious when soliciting additional information from tipees or other external sources (especially including hyperlinks or attachments) related to anonymous reports.