Theft you will always have with you. The fact is that people steal. They will steal from you. They will steal from you no matter what you do.
You can throw up your hands and let the thieves have their way. Or do something about it.
Start by being aware of some of the many ways that employees steal. It comes to you courtesy of one of the standard professional references: The Small Business Fraud Manual from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners. Here are just a few ways that employees can get into your pocket.
They steal cash. They may take money right out of the till or the petty cash fund.
They steal by setting up phony vendors and paying them. This is a bit more sophisticated, but very common. Putting in for more pay than they deserve is a variation of this one.
They steal inventory or supplies. Sometimes this is low-cost items, like office supplies. Sometimes it’s merchandise or machines worth hundreds or even thousands of dollars.
They steal by using equipment for their personal needs. This can be anything from hand tools or the office copier to giant construction equipment and sophisticated computers.
What can you do? Start with good hiring.
Use criminal background checks and pre-employment credit checks to help you spot potential trouble. Be sure to check references.
Set up policies and procedures that make it hard to steal or misuse equipment and that make it easy to catch when it happens. Your accountant can offer guidance on good fraud prevention practice.
Enforce the policies you have. Just having a policy or procedure in the manual isn’t enough. Use it. Simple checklists can help you stay focused and thorough.
Make it a policy to run background checks and credit checks on people in positions of trust, especially those who handle money or authorize expenditures. Don’t just do this when they’re hired. Update your checks on a regular basis. If you spot signs of trouble, dig a little deeper.
There will always be thieves and good people who steal “just this once.” But you can use good business practice and fraud prevention tools to keep your business as safe and profitable as possible.