Deter the Inside Job: 5 Ways to Avert Employee Theft and Fraud

BookKeeping Express CEO Keith Mueller contributed the following article to on the topic of deterring employee theft in small businesses.

Whether it’s divulging a company’s intellectual property to another party, forging fraudulent checks  or stealing merchandise right off the shelves, employee theft and fraud are among the most serious threats to the success of businesses today.

The 2014 Global Fraud Study released in May by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners determined businesses can lose on average 5 percent of revenue each year to fraud, pegged at nearly $3.7 trillion across the globe. The study also reports that more than 1 in 5 of the nearly 1,500 cases analyzed in more than 100 countries had employees walking out the door with at least $1 million in cash.

Lack of employee trust and job satisfaction coupled with careless hiring and supervision can — and has — led to vulnerable businesses that are ripe for internal theft and fraud.

Implementing internal and external controls and systems, as described below, can help a company reduce the risk of theft and hopefully catch any would-be rogue employees.

1. Conduct pre-employment background checks.

A strong hiring process is critical to the health and longevity of a business in more ways than one may think. Business owners must do due diligence when hiring a new employee, arranging for background checks and contacting references. This will help weed out a lot of the potential rogue employees from the outset.

2. Have two (or more) employees oversee the financial system.

Assign more than one person to keep track of bookkeeping, as theft is more likely to happen if only one set of eyes are on the books.

3. Limit employee access to back-office information.

Employees should have access only to the data and documents they need to do their job. If someone doesn’t need access to bill paying and the payroll, don’t furnish it. Put password-protection controls on all documents or folders that only the top managers should have access to.

4. Set up spot-checking audits.

Perform random, unannounced reviews of various transactions — within the inventory and accounting departments as well as in the payroll and petty cash areas — to confirm their legitimacy.

5. Outsource functions.

An employee is 15 times more likely than a nonemployee to steal from an employer, according to the National Federation of Independent Business, so outsource the bookkeeping function altogether if you can.

Although there is no true way to prevent theft at a company, following these security measures can significantly decrease the opportunity for employees to steal.

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