Help! I Think My Employees are Ripping Me Off!

By April 9, 2013Employee screening

Having your own company is a great way to become financially independent. You get to set your own office hours, work on projects you care about and derive satisfaction from helping provider other workers with jobs.


However, being an employer also means that you need to be careful about the people you hire. As an employer, you not only run the risk of hiring lazy workers – you may also have to contend with employees who wind up stealing from you.



Corporate Theft is Real

Corporate theft is serious and on the increase. Statistics show that that 70% of employees who steal and go undetected are likely to end up stealing again. Even worse, 60% of employees are likely to steal if they find that others are getting away with it without being caught or punished.


As a result, corporate theft is much more common than you might think. According to the U.S Chamber of Commerce, an estimated $50 billion was lost to this singular act in 2012. This theft isn’t just limited to a particular demographic. Of the recorded number of cases in the 2012, 59% were carried out by men, while the remaining 41% of thieves were women.


Unfortunately, employees are motivated to steal by things that you really can’t control – like greed, the perception that they’re being overworked or the belief that they deserve more pay than you’re giving them.



How Theft Happens

Employees steal from you in different ways, depending on their positions within your company and their level of access. Theft can be something as simple as pilfering from the counter or something more elaborate, like “cooking your books.”


Some of the most common forms of theft or fraud within a company include:

  • Adjusting prices on receipts and keeping the shorted value
  • Forging receipts for non-existent purchases
  • Stealing company products for personal or commercial use
  • Forging account records
  • Creating a false payout for a non-existent employee


In the end, the only way you can protect yourself is to take assertive steps to prevent fraud from occurring.



How to Identify Employee Theft

Without full access to your employee’s bank account and transaction records, it isn’t always easy to determine when you’re being robbed. However, there are several signs that you can watch out for. If you detect any of the following kinds of behavior, you may be looking at an indication that an employee is ripping off your company or lying about something equally as serious.

  • An employee has picked up a drug or alcohol addiction
  • An employee experiences a sudden change in lifestyle (for example, suddenly being able to afford a more expensive wardrobe, car or apartment)
  • An employee develops close relationships with your suppliers or your clients
  • An employer frequently volunteers to work unsupervised
  • An employee keeps odd hours around the office (as in, regularly working later than his or her scheduled shifts)
  • An employee receives frequent visits from friends and family members during work hours
  • An employee has taken to borrowing money
  • An employee ridicules the company constantly behind your back
  • An employee keeps ordering unreasonably large amount of supplies


Of course, these behaviors aren’t clear-cut evidence that an employee is stealing, as there may be plenty of other reasons behind these actions. For instance, an employee who stays late may just be a hard worker who genuinely loves his job, or a new car may just be a gift from a rich family friend. However, most times, when employees exhibit several of these behaviors at the same time, you likely have cause to worry.



How Private Detectives Can Help

So how can a private investigator help you? Bringing on a private investigator makes it easier for you to:

  • Screen Your Employees: An effective way to reduce your risk of being ripped off is to screen your employees before you hire them. If a prospective employee has a prior record of company theft or a criminal background, you may want to avoid putting them in sensitive positions of trust. Conducting proper background checks is an important way to minimize your employee fraud risk.
  • Investigate Suspected Corporate Crimes: The worst thing you can do is let a theft go unpunished. If you suspect that some of your employees are stealing from you, hiring a private investigator will confirm or quell your suspicions. Corporate private investigators can uncover different kinds of crimes, such as embezzlement, identity theft or account manipulation. Using their experience, skill and the wealth of resources available to them, they can track down suspicions electronic activity and verify any insurance claim that your employees might file – protecting you from any malicious activities.
  • Improve your Stand on Theft: A private investigator can also help you to improve the security of your office by initiating programs aimed at minimizing theft. Encouraging employees to come to you with any questions or concerns that they may have will go a long way in building your work relationships. You should also encourage employees to report suspicious behavior by rewarding them. Make sure that your employees know that you will not condone corporate theft by providing then with a written policy to this effect and following through on your policy if you should ever uncover these types of crimes.


Why Not Call the Police?

In theory, there’s no reason why you can’t report your suspicions of corporate theft to the police. But the reality is that your report isn’t likely to lead anywhere – at least not anytime soon!


The police (and even the FBI) struggle daily with an incredible backlog of cases. Every day, they receive new calls and reports of suspected theft. The average investigator often handles more than three dozen new cases each month. All of this means that very few police detectives actually have the time and resources needed to conduct a proper investigation of your employee theft suspicions.


There’s also the potential backlash that you might experience if your suspicions are wrong. There’s nothing subtle about a police investigation. Once your complaint is processed, several of your workers are likely to be interviewed by police officers, possibly during working hours. This will reduce the trust that your workers have for you – especially if turns out that you were wrong.


Corporate private investigators, on the other hand, have the resources and time needed to conduct thorough and quiet investigations. As a result, the only time your employees will find out that they’re being investigated is when they’re actually caught! This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever consult the police or any other law enforcement agency. Just be aware that your chances of success are much higher when this is done in tandem with a private investigation agency.



The Bottom Line

Some companies hesitate to hire private investigators because they worry about the cost of the investigator’s fees. However, the cost of NOT hiring a private investigator can be much, much higher. Most employees continue to steal until they’re caught, fired or they find employment in another company. Consequently, you could end up losing thousands of dollars a day or more while you delay.


But don’t just hire any private investigator. Bringing in an inexperienced or poorly qualified investigator – just to save on costs – can be just as bad as hiring no investigator at all. Instead, you’re just throwing bad money after a bad decision. Instead of focusing on the fees, take a good, hard look at a PI’s experience and record of accomplishments to ensure that any instances of theft in your organization are shut down before they have the chance to harm your business.


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