How to Prevent Employee Theft

Employee theft is an ever increasing risk in today’s business world. Whether it’s taking a roll of tape from your office or downright pocketing cash it’s all considered employee theft. This kind of theft is not like external theft; it comes from within, from the very people that you trust and hired. Theft occurs in all places of the workplace, so learn how to secure your building or office to help prevent this crime. Read on as I discuss several types of workplace theft and how you can help stop it before it starts.

The most important thing a business owner needs to understand is workplace theft will occur in all areas of the business. The best thing you can do is establish clear consequences and yes, law enforcement should be involved in all cases of employee theft. Don’t just fire the thief; get the police involved because some of these people are repeat offenders. Sometimes it is best for society if the criminal is off the streets.

Establishing consequences is not always enough but you can make up for the loss by getting to know each one of your employees. If your employees can view you as more of a human being, rather than some unreachable god in the sky, they will be more likely to open up and share things with you. Get to know each of your employees by name and get a sense of who they are. Do they do drugs? Are they in debt? Are they in the middle of a divorce? Are they broke? Don’t make them get the baby pictures out of their wallet or anything, but pay attention when they are talking.

You should also make sure your building is secure. All doors should have secure locks with keys or combinations. If you are going to have keyless locks you should also install some sort of camera ID near every door so you can review who is coming and when. Keeping track of your employees and knowing their habits in and out of the office is extremely important should a problem arise. Sometimes the people that commit workplace theft seem to be the hardest and most honest workers. They are the first to arrive and the last to leave, they offer to lock up, and of course they will work late. It’s no problem for them. This gives them the opportunity to be alone in the workplace and the chance to commit theft unsupervised.

Here are some ways that workplace theft occurs and some possible solutions to the problem.

Handling Cash, Checks, and Credit
It’s almost impossible to watch every register in every part of the building at once, even if you are a small establishment. Most people have way too many other things to do to be standing around watching people handle money all day. The easiest way to solve this problem is to place cameras above or near any place where money is handled. Once your employees know the cameras have been installed it is much less likely they will pocket any of your hard earned cash. But, they can be tricky and they have a hat full of visual tricks. Make sure you purchase the best cameras you can afford. Quality and clarity are the two main things you should look for in a video security system.

It is also important to make sure that all checks that have been processed have a “void” stamp. You can also just write void across the check. This will prevent the check from ever being cashed again. You should also invest some money into a safe or security box where you can store checks, cash, receipts, and other valuables. It is also wise to balance your registers several times during the day, especially if you are busy. You never want there to be an abundance of unaccounted for cash just lying around. Generally most people seem to follow the rule of $100 or less each time the register is balanced.

As a business owner of any size you also have to be extremely careful with credit cards. Today it is not unheard of to have an attendant or cashier swipe a customer’s credit card through a handheld device, called a skimmer that collects the data off the card. They can later access this data with a computer and print out a new credit card and begin spending under your customer’s account. To avoid this situation make sure every customer knows they have to bring their credit card to the register, in person. Employees will be less likely to steal if the owner of the card is standing right in front of them. This type of theft usually occurs outside of the view of others, so make sure that credit cards stay in the presence of the rightful holder.

Computer Fraud
Although computers are getting more complex everyday, it is becoming more common to hear of computer theft. Many computers, especially older models used in many businesses can be easily defrauded for information and money. There are several ways to combat this kind of theft in the workplace. First you can update your computer system and programs. Next assign individual passwords and user names for each employee that will access the computer system. Your program should allow to keep a log of times and dates when an employee accessed the computer system. By using individual passwords and user names each employee can be held accountable for their actions. It is also wise to keep a back up file or copy of all your computer programs and drivers in case of theft.

Paperwork and Files
Paperwork and files should be treated in the same manner as computer data. Because so much paperwork contains personal information that can be used it is important to keep them under lock and key. Purchasing waterproof/fireproof file cabinets is also a valuable investment to protect your paperwork. Each file cabinet should have a lock and the keys should be assigned to one person with a sign in/sign out card.

Storage Areas
Every storage area or room should have some sort of camera watching it. High value items should be locked in a cabinet out of reach, or in a safe. These items should be attained through a manager or supervisor. It’s also a good idea to use closed circuit television so your employees know they are being watched. Most people are deterred by cameras because they know it is more likely they will be caught.

How to Apprehend a Thief
If you are notified by another employee that someone is stealing from you DO NOT immediately just fire them and send them on their way. In case of theft you should always be the first person notified. Immediately escort the thief to your office or another area away from the other employees and customers. Have someone call the police while you detain the suspect, so you can file a complaint. For many people it may be their first time, but you would be surprised by how many of them are repeat offenders. Be aware of the body language of an accused employee. Does he/she look or seem nervous? Are they jumpy? Are they angry? Body language says a lot about what a person may or may not be guilty of.

Sadly employee theft, if discovered, usually results in termination of that employee and anyone else involved. It is more cost effective if you guard yourself and your business against theft before it ever occurs. If you just follow these precautions workplace theft will reduce dramatically.

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