Employee Theft: Why It’s One of the Biggest Threats to Your Business (and How to Stop It)

Employee Theft: Why It's One of the Biggest Threats to Your Business (and How to Stop It)

When dealing with your company’s finances, you likely work hard to not only ensure your books are balanced, but also pull in as much profit as possible every year. To save money and keep accurate records, you pay close attention to various areas in your business, like discounts on wholesale supplies, routine maintenance of expensive equipment, and the pricing of your products or services. But your biggest threat to your year-end profit and reports may actually be within your organization, as employee theft is one of the most rampant and common ways businesses lose money, assets, and even their reputations.

For years, various outlets have reported one in three businesses will fail due to employee theft. On average, 75% of employees will steal at least once in their time of employment, and their theft is 15 times more likely than nabbing by external people.

Employee theft is so prevalent that an independent study from 2013 by forensic accounting firm Kessler International of over 500 businesses discovered 95% of employees are likely to steal from their employers. This figure is up 16% from Kessler’s previous study from 1999, a disconcerting increase considering the problem of employee theft costs businesses thousands to millions of dollars a year. Kessler attributed the rise of employee theft to factors such as employee misuse of assets and the penchant for younger employees, boasting a sense of entitlement that they’re owed more than they’re given, to have less honesty and integrity than previous generations of workers.

One example of just how much money companies stand to lose due to employee theft comes from internationally-renowned Swedish home brand Ikea. Back in 2008, a 24-year-old man named Suraj S. Samaroo was working in an Ikea call center in the Baltimore, Maryland area. His duties included handling complaints and returns from the retail giant’s customers; instead, Samaroo used a fake name and address, his bank routing number, and the legitimate records of Ikea customers to issue more than $407,000 worth of refunds to himself over the course of a year for items which were never actually returned.

“He would do that at a steady clip – two or three times a week – every week for a year,” said the case’s prosecutor, Adam Lippe, to The Baltimore Sun. “The money was sucked out of whatever big pot of Ikea gold there is and transferred to his bank account.” Samaroo, who had used some of this stolen money to buy himself an Infiniti G35X, was eventually arrested and charged with theft and theft scheme.

While it might seem Samaroo was clearly in the wrong, his defense attorney T. Wray McCurdy’s stance on Ikea’s negligence is what all businesses should be concerned about when it comes to employee theft: “It makes you stand back and wonder how he had access to such a scheme in the first place. Where are the supervisors? Are there any? I’m not saying he’s not responsible for the loss – he is – but … it makes you shake your head that a major corporation doesn’t have enough checks and balances to prevent something like this.”

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