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Fraud Program

Reporting fraud in government

We encourage all citizens to report fraud allegations directly to the State Auditor’s Office (SAO). 

Washington state law requires all state agencies and local governments to immediately notify SAO if staff know or suspect loss of public resources, or of other illegal activity including a cyber-attack if it resulted in a loss of public resources or potentially impacted financial records or systems. State and local government employees should alert us to suspected fraud through the online Report a Suspected Fraud or Loss form below.

For more information about reporting cyber incidents, read the October 2020 article, “Has your government experienced a cybersecurity issue? Here is when and how to report.

Visit the Preventing Fraud page for a review of our best tips and practices.

Reporting suspected imposter fraud related to your unemployment benefits

If you have reason to believe someone has applied for unemployment benefits using your information or used a scam to obtain your private information, please report to the Employment Security Department using their online reporting tool. We also recognize ESD is facing a high volume of phone calls related to unemployment claims. Please continue to work with ESD on issues with your unemployment claim, either through your eServices account or by phone, as SAO cannot help with claim issues.

What to do if you suspect fraud

Take the following actions when a loss of public funds, assets or other illegal activity is suspected or detected:

  • Report the loss to SAO using the form on our website (use the button below this list).
  • Protect the accounting records. All original records related to the loss should be secured in a safe place until our investigation has been completed.
  • Notify others who need to know. This may include the governing body, agency head or deputies, chief financial officer or internal auditor, depending upon the circumstances.
  • Providing notification to your legal counsel may also be appropriate.
  • File a police report with the appropriate local or state law enforcement agency when advised to do so by SAO.
  • Do not enter into a restitution agreement with an employee prior to an investigation to establish the amount of loss.

Circumstances in which you should not contact SAO

Local governments and state agencies are not required to report the following:

  • Normal and reasonable “over and short” situations from cash receipting operations. Record these transactions in the accounting system as miscellaneous income and expense, respectively, and monitor this activity for any unusual trends.
  • Reasonable inventory shortages identified during a physical count. Record inventory adjustments in the accounting system.
  • Breaking and entering or vandalism of property.
  • Loss of cellphones

Please do not attempt to correct the loss without reporting to the authorities identified above. In addition, state law requires written approval of the State Auditor and Attorney General before state agencies and local governments make any restitution agreement, compromise, or settlement.

For questions about fraud procedures or the fraud program, contact us at