Fraud Prevention Tip #49: How to Deal with Employee Theft
Anti-fraud efforts usually lean towards managing external threats. But your largest exposure is from employees simply because they are already inside your circle of trust.
When we find out that a trusted employee has been stealing from the organization, it can be really difficult to know how to proceed. The theft in question could be anything from taking inventory or supplies for personal use or for resale, adding fictitious costs to travel and other out of pocket reimbursement requests, putting false information on time sheets, engaging in intellectual property theft, or profiting from shadow deals with suppliers, customers or contractors.
Simply put, there’s no one size fits all solution to addressing theft and other fraud by employees. But you have to act. You simply can’t allow the disease of deception to take root in your business.
Here are three suggestions to get you pointed in the right direction.
• Get Help. It’s a rare business leader who has sufficient background in fraud issues to handle cases of employee theft by themselves. Get the help you need to protect all involved, including honest employees. Start with the legal, accounting, human resources and technology experts who are already part of your core business support team. Get advise from qualified professionals – ideally before you’re faced with a fraud event. Outline a comprehensive response plan now before it’s needed. Then execute it objectively should an event be detected.
• Don’t Delay. It’s time to park your disbelief and anger, and get started on taking care of the problem. Employees who steal have no place in your organization. It’s time to stand behind your policies of zero tolerance for cheaters. You’ll need to proceed efficiently and professionally towards a solution that balances the facts of the case with the desire to get it all behind you. But be careful not to let uncertainty and indecision get in the way of what needs to be done. Get help, then take action.
• Learn from What Happened. OK, you got taken by a trusted staff member or manager. It happens, so it’s important to get past the issue at hand and move forward having learned important lessons. Think about how controls could be tweaked without getting in the way of efficient business practices. Analyze how you could be a better overseer of transactions and activity without holding up progress. Recruit your honest employees into a stepped up campaign to make sure it never happens to you again.
When trusted employees steal from the organization, it violates everything you and the many other honest team members hold dear. Out of respect for the honest majority, get help, take action, and adjust daily practices based on lessons learned.
John J. Hall, CPA
John J. Hall, CPA, is an author, speaker and results expert who presents around the world at conventions, corporate meetings and association events. Throughout his 38-year career as a business consultant, corporate executive and professional speaker, John has helped organizations and individuals achieve measurable results. He inspires audience members in corporations, not-for-profit organizations and professional associations to step up, take action and “do what you can.”