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Benford's Law and Fraud Detection. Facts and Legends

Author

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  • Andreas Diekmann

    ()

  • Ben Jann

    ()

Abstract

Is Benford's law a good instrument to detect fraud in reports of statistical and scientific data? For a valid test the probability of "false positives" and "false negatives" has to be low. However, it is very doubtful whether the Benford distribution is an appropriate tool to discriminate between manipulated and non-manipulated estimates. Further research should focus more on the validity of the test and test results should be interpreted more carefully.

Suggested Citation

  • Andreas Diekmann & Ben Jann, 2010. "Benford's Law and Fraud Detection. Facts and Legends," ETH Zurich Sociology Working Papers 8, ETH Zurich, Chair of Sociology.
  • Handle: RePEc:ets:wpaper:8
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    File URL: http://repec.ethz.ch/ets/papers/diekmann_jann_benford_2010.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Andreas Diekmann, 2007. "Not the First Digit! Using Benford's Law to Detect Fraudulent Scientif ic Data," Journal of Applied Statistics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 34(3), pages 321-329.
    2. Dewald, William G & Thursby, Jerry G & Anderson, Richard G, 1986. "Replication in Empirical Economics: The Journal of Money, Credit and Banking Project," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 76(4), pages 587-603, September.
    3. Andreas Diekmann, 2002. "Diagnose von Fehlerquellen und methodische Qualität in der sozialwissenschaftlichen Forschung [Sources of Bias and Quality of Data in Social Science Research]," ITA manu:scripts 02_04, Institute of Technology Assessment (ITA).
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    Cited by:

    1. Bernhard Rauch & Max Göttsche & Gernot Brähler & Stefan Engel, 2011. "Fact and Fiction in EU‐Governmental Economic Data," German Economic Review, Verein für Socialpolitik, vol. 12(3), pages 243-255, August.
    2. Shikano Susumu & Mack Verena, 2011. "When Does the Second-Digit Benford’s Law-Test Signal an Election Fraud?: Facts or Misleading Test Results," Journal of Economics and Statistics (Jahrbuecher fuer Nationaloekonomie und Statistik), De Gruyter, vol. 231(5-6), pages 719-732, October.

    More about this item

    Keywords

    Benford's law; fraud detection; false positive; false negative; regression coefficients;

    JEL classification:

    • C12 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Hypothesis Testing: General
    • C16 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Econometric and Statistical Methods and Methodology: General - - - Econometric and Statistical Methods; Specific Distributions

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