I'm new to this website and am posting this question to ask for advice. I'm really stressed and don't know what to do.

I went to a conference with a few researchers from our group. After the trip, one of them approached me and asked me to do him a favor. It turned out he had considerably overspent his limit for meals because of a misunderstanding of the rules. To get out of this, he wanted to claim to have paid with his university credit card for group meals and thereby split his meal expenses between his account and the accounts of others including mine. I didn't want to participate in this, but he literally begged me and said others had already agreed. We logged on to the online tool and did what he wanted. Now I've gotten an email from finance asking me to confirm whether I actually participated in those group meals.

I don't know why they are asking. The email is very short. It may be just a routine verification. But I don't know. They may have found something wrong or suspicious. They may have been tipped off. They may be wondering how we could eat together if my university credit card was charged at a different place at the same time.

Am I likely to get fired by the university if I just tell the truth? I want to be honest, and I hate myself for getting involved in this fraud, but I can't afford losing the job in my life circumstances. I am on a relatively long fixed-term contract, just like that guy, and we are both funded from the group's funds and report to the head of the group. Is it safer to say that I don't want to discuss how we ate and prefer paying out of my pocket if there's any issue? It's just a few hundred bucks in total for my meals and my share of help to that guy. What's my best bet?

Please don't be too hard on me. I need advice. I've learned my lesson and will never let anyone manipulate me into participating in fraud.

  • 4
    Suspiciously similar to the situation in workplace.stackexchange.com/q/187807/91090. Is this question inspired by that one?
    – GoodDeeds
    Oct 14, 2022 at 20:05
  • I am confused, how could he claim to have spent using the university credit card, but there would be no charges on that account? Oct 14, 2022 at 20:48
  • 1
    As I told that gentleman on workplace.se, what he did was fraud. Criminal. Career destroying. Lying to gain an undeserved financial advantage is fraud. If “finance” asks you, you can continue the lie (and they have seen it all, they know it’s a lie), or tell them exactly what happened. Do you want to destroy your career?
    – gnasher729
    Oct 14, 2022 at 21:55
  • 2
    Given the similarities with the Workplace.SE question, it seems unlikely that this question was asked in good faith, so we mods are going to hammer this closed. @tigress - if you disagree (and especially if you have proof this is real that you're willing to share privately), let us know (by hitting the flag button on your question) and we can work with you. All others: this was a difficult moderation decision; if you think cases like this should be handled differently in future, please post on meta and we can discuss.
    – cag51
    Oct 15, 2022 at 0:49

2 Answers 2


No one can guarantee an outcome.

I suggest, however, that one option is to get everyone involved in this together in one place and discuss it. I'd advocate for honesty and maybe a joint statement (confession).

Ideally, the person that instigated it should be the one to come forward and honestly explain it to the bosses. While it is you that has "involved" yourself in fraud by agreeing, they likely used a form of friendly coercion to get you to act as you did.

You can promise joint restitution. It may or may not be sufficient, depending on how understanding or severe the system chooses to be.

People err. Everyone. Most people tend to be forgiving when it is possible. Most, not all. But restitution is required in such a case.

Refusing to discuss it or continuing the fraud seem to me like poor choices that would have more severe outcomes than honesty.


"It's not the crime, it's the coverup."

You messed up—you shouldn't have lied about attending these meals. However, this is a small mistake, and it is likely that if you tell the truth now, there won't be too many serious repercussions (particularly for you—the person who pressured you into lying may be in a bit more trouble). There is some small possibility that you could be in real trouble, but most institutions try not to throw the book at people who make one mistake.

Do not cause yourself further problems by lying.

Falling to peer pressure and fraudulently signing off on reimbursement forms is a mistake, but it is one that you can likely recover from. Engaging in an extended coverup of a small fraud is, potentially, career ending.

If you do as Buffy suggests, and discuss this with other members of the group before moving forward, I would strongly suggest that you go into those meetings with the attitude that you all need to come clean, and that you are not going to lie to protect them.

I would then respond to the request for clarification with the truth. You don't have to volunteer information which is not requested (e.g. in response to the question "Did you attend these meals?", a simple "No" is sufficient—you don't need to go into details about why you said you did unless you are asked), but you should answer any questions you are asked honestly. Don't compound your error by lying.

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