The crimes can mean the theft of goods valued at a few dollars , such as a Lake Station gas station security guard charged with stealing a box of doughnuts. Or it can mean thefts amounting to thousands of dollars, such as a LaPorte man who scammed $100,000 from a Valparaiso roofing business where he worked.
And thefts hardly are limited to food and money.Employees in recent months have been accused of pocketing pain-killers from a CVS Pharmacy in Hobart and taking home diamond rings from Jared Jewelry at Westfield Southlake mall.”Employees are the biggest thieves,” said veteran Hobart police Detective David Grissom. “They know where the money is and how to get around the system.
Last week, Grissom completed a case in which a 46-year-old Hobart woman was charged through Lake County with stealing $1,500 in cash from Cash In A Flash stores in both Hobart and Highland. The woman was fired from both businesses, but kept keys and knew the alarm systems. he said.
Grissom said one of the more common employee scams he is witnessing at retail stores is a clerk opening up a new credit card account for a customer then charging to that account.”You almost have to check on your accounts on a daily basis,” he advises.
Calumet City Patrolman Marco Glumac said police in his city also witness their share of employee theft at retail stores given that it has River Oaks Center.But he recalls one of the more unusual cases of employee theft involved a 23-year-old Harris Bank employee who was arrested after helping two other friends steal more than $100,000.The Calumet City woman — who also was charged with putting $16,000 from her bank drawer in her own pocket — was spotted on security camera footage unlocking a usually locked door for accomplices, Glumac said.
New technology has helped police and employers, but it cannot do everything.”The cameras are there to survey employees and customers. There’s plenty of ways to defraud,” he said.He recalls a Sears employee who handed out 26 televisions to friends through the delivery department; he wasn’t caught for months. The man was clever enough to make a false paper trail.
And checking on the backgrounds of employees who might have criminal backgrounds is getting harder for police and in turn employers, at least in Illinois, said Lansing Police Chief Dan McDevitt. Changes in state law have sealed some types of criminal history records, he said.Employee theft is not uncommon in Valparaiso, which has its own share of retails shops and chain stores, said Valparaiso police Sgt. Michael Grennes.”It’s not something new,” he said. “There’s usually a good paper trail to follow that leads back to the employee.”
Costly crimes,Inventory shrinkage, a combination of employee theft, shoplifting, vendor fraud and administrative error, cost United States retailers over $31 billion last year, according to a recent National Retail Security Survey report on retail theft, which analyzed theft incidents from 118 of the largest U.S. retail chains.
Employee theft was estimated at nearly half of that total.
Here are a few tips to help cut down on insider theft;
Q: How can business owners guard against employee theft?
A: Your typical small business owner wants to believe that every employee is trustworthy and above suspicion. With few exceptions, that trust is well grounded. But some people can and do succumb to temptation. Employee theft encompasses everything from a one-time theft due to personal and financial problems to a large, organized theft ring.
As a small business owner, you want to respect your staff but you also need to protect the interests of your enterprise, not the least of which is its profitability. Fortunately, these goals are not mutually exclusive.
One of the best safeguards against employee theft is prevention. Carefully screen job applicants before hiring a new employee. Background and reference checks are especially crucial for positions in which the new hire will be handling money. Employee discounts on merchandise can also help avert theft. Employees will feel valued and be less likely to carry a grudge against your company.
Next, keep timely inventory records and audit the inventory on a
regular basis. Many firms audit quarterly, others biannually. Generally, the more frequent the inventory audit, the more rapidly you will be able to spot and correct any problems. When records are poorly maintained, the chances of theft increase because the chance of being caught decreases.
Only a few employees should have keys to the business. Installing time locks and alarms can also help prevent theft. The more doors a business has, the more opportunities there are for theft. It may also be wise to install or upgrade an alarm system, perhaps including motion detectors.
Incoming inventory is a target for theft. When inventory is received have two people check it. Log items received compared to the shipping ticket.
Flatten and spot-check shipping cartons after hours, making sure they are completely empty. Keep the shipping and receiving door locked when it is not in use.
If you suspect a thief among your employees, document missing items. Keep detailed records of employees who were working on the days in question and hold a training session on controlling theft. If the theft is minor, you may elect to provide training and alert employees to your general concerns. Continue to document your inventory. If the problem persists, report it to your local authorities. This adds gravity to the situation and may either dissuade theft or help you catch the thief.
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