Ghost workers… there are more of them out there in the real world than you might think. But just what are these strange and seemingly supernatural entities, and why is the government in the UK and abroad (Nigeria has a particular plague of these ghosts) cracking down on them?

A ghost worker or ghost employee is someone who, although featuring on the payroll for a company, doesn’t actually work there. They may not even exist at all, and be completely fictitious. And, because they are on the payroll, and despite not working in the company, they still get paid. It’s a neat trick, and one that is happening under our very noses. It’s hard to get away with such a thing if a small business where everyone knows everyone, but in a large business where each department is separate – maybe even housed in separate buildings or different cities (even countries in some instances) – it is much easier. Who would know if some of the names were people who had never stepped foot in the branch or office?

It is also possible to ‘hire’ ghost workers if the payroll is outsourced, as the external company will not know who is there and who isn’t.

The person conducting the fraud – because, essentially, that is what paying ghost employees boils down to – will need to complete all the correct details for the ‘employee’, yet they will know that those people don’t work there. The ghost worker will be on the payroll, there will be salary information relating to them within the organisation, and the ghost worker will also really be paid.

It is often the manager themselves who benefits most from this crime. They may set up a separate bank account and give those account details to the payroll department or company in relation to a ghost worker. When the money is paid, the manager will receive two payments, one in his or her main account, and one in the second account.