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Agency/Organization Program Coordinators (A/OPCs) Travel Training

Lesson 7: Misuse/Abuse and Fraud

What ethical standards apply to travel card/account holders?

Executive branch card/account holders are subject to the Standards of Official Conduct. These standards require that: Public service is a trust, requiring card/account holders to place loyalty to the Constitution, the laws and ethical principles above private gain. Card/account holders shall not use public office for private gain. Card/account holders shall satisfy in good faith their obligations as citizens, including all just financial obligations, especially those such as federal, state and local taxes, that are imposed by law.

What are some examples of misuse/abuse?

Misuse/abuse of the GSA SmartPay® travel card/account can take many different forms, but here are some of the most common examples:

  • Personal use.
  • Use of the travel card/account for someone other than the specific card/account holder.
  • Use while not on official government travel.
  • Purchases from an unauthorized merchant.
  • Excessive ATM withdrawals.
  • Failure to pay undisputed amounts on time.

What are some consequences of misuse/abuse?

Consequences for misuse/abuse may include:

  • Reprimand.
  • Travel card/account cancellation.
  • Counseling.
  • Suspension of employment.
  • Termination of employment.
  • Criminal prosecution.

Please note that it is up to your agency to provide agency-specific penalties and consequences for misuse/abuse of the travel card/account.

What should I do if I suspect misuse/abuse of the travel account?

A key responsibility for most A/OPCs is to detect and report suspected misuse. If you are required to report suspected misuse, make sure you have all the information necessary to assist with a formal inquiry or investigation. Contact the card/account holder to obtain any information that could explain questionable charges. If the card/account holder provides documentation or an explanation regarding the charges and you still have questions or concerns about it, compile all the information (such as a statement, exception report, documented contacts between you and the card/account holder, copies of receipts, etc.) before you report it. Your agency/organization may ask you to report suspected misuse to one or more of the following personnel:

  • The card/account holder’s supervisor.
  • The Human Resources Office.
  • The Approving Official.
  • The Finance Officer.
  • The Office of Inspector General or the Office of Special Investigations.

Always follow your agency’s policies and procedures when handling cases of suspected misuse.

Under the United States Code Title 18 Section 287, misuse of the travel card/account could result in fines or imprisonment or both. Military members who misuse the travel card/account may be subject to court martial under United States Code Title 10 Section 932 - Art 132.

What is fraud?

Fraud is a deception deliberately practiced with the motive of securing unfair or unlawful gain. Fraud can be an attempt to cheat the federal government and corrupt its agents by using GSA SmartPay payment solutions for transactions that are not part of official government business. Like any deception, fraud has its fair share of victims.

Some of the different types of fraud include:


Occurs when a card/account holder’s data is stolen at the fuel pump, ATM or point-of-sale (POS) terminal.

Counterfeit Cards

Criminals make fake cards by using the newest technology to “skim” information contained on the magnetic stripes of cards.

Lost or Stolen Cards/Accounts

Often physical cards are stolen from a workplace, gym or unattended vehicle.

Card-Not-Present (CNP) Fraud

Internet fraud occurs whenever card/account information is stolen and used to make online purchases. Usually, a merchant will ask for the Card Verification Code (CVC) (located on the back of the card itself) to help prevent this type of fraud.


Phishing occurs whenever a card/account holder receives a fake email directing him or her to enter sensitive personal information on a phony website. The false website enables the criminal to steal information from the card/account holder.

Non-Receipt Fraud

Occurs whenever new or replacement cards are mailed and then stolen while in transit.

Identity Theft Fraud

Whenever a criminal applies for a card/account using another person’s identity and information.

What should you inform your card/account holders about fraud?

Card/account holders should be on alert to the indicators of fraud (including false charges/transactions, mischarging, bribes, gratuities and kickbacks). They should also make sure to report suspected fraud immediately through the proper channels at your agency (AO, A/OPC, Finance Officer, Office of the Inspector General or Office of Special Investigations, etc.).

Furthermore, card/account holders should understand that any intentional use of the GSA SmartPay Travel card/account for other than official government business is considered an attempt to commit fraud against the U.S. Government and may be cause for disciplinary actions. The IBA card/account holder is held personally liable to the government for the amount of any non-government transaction.


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