“My employees? Stealing from me? It couldn’t happen here…”
This is the usual response we get from business owners at the suggestion that their employees may not be completely honest and trustworthy. It’s not surprising, especially for a small business, or a company that started out small, and has been growing. Most of us like to think of our business staff almost as family. No one wants to think that there’s an enemy within the ranks.
If you don’t think it could happen in your company, take a hard look at these statistics. According to Statistic Brain, a staggering $50 billion is stolen annually from U.S. businesses by employees. That’s billion, with a “b”. A “5” with ten zeroes after it. To put it in perspective (since most of us can’t really imagine what a billion dollars is), that amounts to 7% of total annual revenues. I know that’s hard to believe. Let’s take a look at the ways in which employees steal from their jobs.
- Cash Theft
This is the most obvious and blatant form of employee theft: removing your money from your place of business. Unfortunately, it’s not always obvious that it’s happening. Sneaky employees may remove money from cash registers, petty cash boxes, and so on. Sometimes an employee will overcharge a customer, and then pocket the extra funds.
- Merchandise Theft
Stealing merchandise from retail operations is more common than anyone really wants to admit. Employees have been known to take merchandise from the selling floor, or from the stockroom or warehouse, hide it in their clothes, lockers, or stash items away on a back shelf, to be picked up on their way out. Sometimes they’re clever enough to do this before the items are scanned into your inventory system.
Most employees don’t think twice about pocketing a pen or some paper clips every now and then, but it adds up. Bolder employees may steal more expensive items, if they can get them out of the building unnoticed. Some have been known to come in after hours and take even larger items, like computers or other expensive equipment, and even furniture.
- Payroll and Expenses
Employees can falsify records, taking credit for hours they didn’t work, and getting paid for those hours. Expense reports can be submitted, to get reimbursement for meals and other outings that weren’t actually business-related.
- Bookkeeping and Accounting Fraud
Bookkeepers and accountants have it easy if they’re inclined to steal from you. They’ve got access to all of your account information, and probably even have passwords to your online accounts. You may even have given them signing authority on your checking account to pay bills, and left them with some blank checks. If you have only one accountant or bookkeeper, there’s probably no one looking over their shoulder all day, so there’s a lot of room for mischief. And, really, how thoroughly did you check their background before bringing them on board?
Yes, employee theft is real, and it can happen to you. Be vigilant, tighten up your security policies, and above all, watch your books carefully.