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Theft and Fraud May Be an Inside Job

May 15, 2000
Related Topics: Workplace Violence, Safety and Workplace Violence, Featured Article
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Across industries, up to 85 percent of all theft and fraud stems from employees, not outsiders, according to Department of Commerce estimates. The categories of "theft" and "fraud" include the following, all unfortunately alive and well in the wide range of workforces:

  • embezzlement large and small, ranging from felonious robbery to snitching from petty cash and postage
  • unauthorized expenses for telephone, fax, computers, company vehicles, and other equipment
  • removal of equipment, parts, software, and office supplies from company premises
  • fraudulent filing of expense reports and reimbursement requests
  • exaggerated or wholly fictitious accident and injury claims
  • misuse of days off for sickness or family emergencies
  • use of company facilities and personnel for personal business or entertainment, including Internet play and excessive non-business e-mail, voice-mail, and fedex (TM)
  • company-paid travel, ostensibly for business but in fact for personal purposes

Consider also these hazy (but no less harmful) aspects of employee theft and fraud:

  • selling company products or services to clients or others "at a special discount" made possible because the employee is trafficking in stolen goods or offering professional services on a "moonlight" basis in direct competition with you.
  • taking advantage of company clients and other contacts for personal gain. This can involve inappropriate off-the-clock business dealings with patients or clients, sharing of information from confidential client files, and quid pro quo arrangements for favors and considerations.
  • tampering with records, computer files, schedules, documents, or products in such a way as to discredit a fellow employee, hide one's own misdeeds, or place the company in a bad light.

Whether your business involves a handful or hundreds of employees, your viability as a business enterprise or professional practice depends upon your ability to prevent employee theft, fraud, and abuse in all forms. At the same time, avoid paranoia about your employees' actions and motives. Thieves and cheaters in your workplace probably remain the rare exception, albeit an expensive one.

Prevention of theft and fraud is where your focus and energies should be placed. Although obviously necessary, after-the-fact recovery of stolen funds or property and punishment for the guilty usually involves a net loss to the company due to executive time, legal expenses, employee turnover and rehiring/training expenses, and perhaps fees to professional investigators. In short, punishment is infinitely more expensive and legally hazardous than is prevention.

 

Recent Articles by Arthur H. Bell, Ph.D. and Dayle M. Smith, Ph.D.

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