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How to Spot and Prevent Employee Theft

Employees are at the core of any company and when it comes to theft, no employer wants to believe that their employees would commit such crimes. Unfortunately, these cases are happening more than we think. Every year, businesses are losing about 5% of their revenue to these crimes.

So what is employee theft? Employee theft is at any time an employee steals valuable assets from their employer. Data, supplies, time, money, and business ideas are all assets that can be taken from a business. There are many motivating factors that lead employees to steal. Three of the main causes of theft in the workplace are opportunity, spite, and need.

With 95% of businesses being impacted by employee theft, it proves that this can happen at any company no matter what industry.

Some of the most common types of theft are:

  • Skimming: when an employee steals money from an employer before it is documented
  • Embezzling: when a trusted employee takes money from an account they had access to
  • Data theft: when an employee steals data that contains sensitive information
  • Intellectual theft: when an employee steals business ideas or confidential information from an employer
  • Time theft: when an employee accepts pay for work that they did not complete
  • Larceny: when an employee steals personal property

Many businesses have been greatly impacted by the effects of COVID-19. From layoffs to changing to a remote work environment, it’s become more important than ever for employers to prevent further financial loss. To do this, companies must know what signs to look out for.

One of the most common signs of theft includes a change in an employee’s behavior. This could present itself as low motivation or a poor work ethic. Typically, happy and engaged employees don’t have the motivation to commit such crimes. On the other hand, problematic and disgruntled employees may be looking to get back at an employer which could spark some interest in engaging in acts of theft. After all, spite is one of the leading causes of employee theft.

Another change in behavior to be aware of is mismatched lifestyle choices. If employees are living beyond their means and their lifestyle no longer matches their salary, this could be another red flag.

One of the biggest assets to always keep an eye on is money. If there are any discrepancies in funds like uncategorized spending or missing money, this needs to be investigated immediately.

Some other signs to keep an eye out for include:

  • Missing files, products or supplies
  • Defensiveness to turn over or change work
  • Unusual working hours
  • Favoritism towards a vendor or customer

When employers know what signs to look out for, it makes it easier to spot these crimes and prevent them from happening again. So how can businesses make sure these acts of theft don’t continue to happen?

Employers should start by educating employees on these crimes and setting clear guidelines and policies. Employees need to be aware of the consequences they could face if they commit acts of theft. They should also know how to report these cases in the instance they are a witness to one of these crimes. Having proper communication in place between all parties helps to mitigate risk.

Employers should also make sure all sensitive data and information are protected. Though employees can have access to some files, a study found that more than a third of people have accidentally stumbled across confidential information they weren’t supposed to see.

With most of the workforce working from home, it’s important for companies to make sure their assets are protected to stop these crimes from happening. Consider using secure networks for employees to work off of and make sure to install firewalls and virus scanners to ensure all data is protected.

Companies should also consider implementing time tracking and monitoring software tools to keep track of their employees’ hours. Though this may seem like an invasive strategy, it can help employers see how their team is using their time and if the time accurately reflects the work they are doing. Time theft is one of the easiest ways employees can steal from their employers, especially when working from home. Communicate and check in with your employees often to ensure they are logging their time correctly.

To help understand employee theft further, JW Surety Bonds created this visual guide that breaks down the different types of employee theft, red flags to look out for and strategies businesses can implement to help prevent these crimes from happening at their workplace.

How to Spot and Prevent Employee Theft
Corey Doane is a Content Marketing Specialist at Siege Media and has a B.S. in Public Relations. She has a passion for writing and loves creating content that covers business and lifestyle topics. When she isn’t working, you can find her sipping on an iced coffee and spending time with her family.
Corey Doane

Guest Writer

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