The refrain from the song Santa Claus is Coming to Town is “He knows if you’ve been bad or good, so be good for goodness sake.” Don’t we wish that was really true. The unfortunate truth is that quite often we don’t know if employees are being bad until it is too late, and Santa isn’t telling. An article in the Wall Street Journal Online, Businesses Say Theft by Their Workers Is Up, tells the story that many businesses have seen an increase in money and goods walking out the door with employees who are having economic difficulty. A number of employers are reporting that it has become a big problem. In 2007 companies on average lost $2.4 million to employee fraud.
One of the disappointing things about this is that quite often the person that is taking is the last person you would expect. They are a trusted employee. Though when I read that I was not suprised. A federal fraud investigator once told me that the most common embezzler in the U.S. was the trusted whitehaired grandmother worker who is the right-hand of the male president of the company. She has check signing authority and she usually takes over a $1 million before she is caught.
So the lesson here is to be more aware. Watch for unusual patterns of behavior. Do you have an employee working late that does not typically do so? Watch inventories closer and be aware of what may be walking out the door.
In addition, theft from the outside increases in hard times, and just at this time of year in general. I visited a client the other day in a downtown office building where the street side doors were locked. To gain entry you had to go around to the other entrance to go past the security desk. There had been a problem with people coming in and going to upper floors and going through desks and stealing money. In a company I had worked in before we had a similar issue. We had a nicely dressed young man walking around the office stealing from purses in desks. He was stopped a couple of times, but he told people he was a new employee and was lost or people who saw him just assumed he was. The lesson in this is that you need to be alert, keep your valuables secured and not assume the best of people. Because we all know what ASS-u-me means. If you think someone should not be there then call security or management.
Having money taken, goods stolen, your identity lost is never a pleasant experience, but to have that occur in December and in tough times makes it all that much harder.