Employee theft is more serious than you think—and is rampant in small to mid-sized businesses. It never ceases to astound business owners that a trusted employee might be stealing. Sadly, most fraudulent activities take about 16 months before they are even detected.
After the Enron debacle, Congress passed “Sarbanes Oxley” to tighten the responsibility of the accountant to detect fraud. Talk to someone in the accounting community about SOX and they will roll their eyes and heave a large sigh. In all levels of the attest function performed by accountants (compilation, review and audit), SOX has had an effect. The result of this increased testing is that more employee theft than ever before is being uncovered.
In fact, the AICPA (American Institute of Certified Public Accountants) released a recent study that has some shocking statistics. According to their survey of members, up to 82% of small to mid-market businesses have or will experience employee theft. Of the incidences of theft uncovered, the average theft amount equals $125,000!! And believe it or not, most of these thieves are not prosecuted.
Are you a victim? Most of us would immediately say, “No, all my employees are completely trustworthy.” But, what about the next employee you hire? What about the employee who has had an unexpected life change (divorce, death, or other experience) that has affected his/her financial stability? What about that employee’s spouse who you might not quite trust? Could that person have undue influence to convince your employee to do something?
Employee theft can come in many forms. Here are several areas were informal processes provide opportunity for employees to steal from you:
- Cash. Does the employee who collects the cash also make the deposit and reconcile the bank statements?
- Payables. Does the employee who makes the vendor payments reconcile the bank statement? Does this employee have access to online accounts or a signature stamp?
- Time. Do your employees steal time by running personnel errands or spending excess time on the phone as you are paying them for doing the company work?
- Company credit cards. Do your employees have company credit cards? Are the expenses charged to these cards reviewed by someone other than that employee?
- Computer access. You would be amazed at how many employees run a small business on your computer and on your company time.
HOW CAN YOU STOP THIS?
- Create a policy that strictly forbids the above activities (and other similar activities).
- Look at your business functions and determine where you are vulnerable.
- Make sure there is a separation of duties between employees who handle areas where theft could occur.
- Consider monitoring where employees spend their computer time.
Incidents of fraud cost us time, money, and possibly our reputation. The most common types of fraud are:
- Asset misappropriation (84%): including billing, expense reimbursement, and payroll schemes and check tampering.
- Corruption (35%): including bribery, illegal gratuities
- Financial statement falsification (10%): including false or understated revenues, improper asset valuations.
There are many ways an employee can steal from their employer. There are also many ways an employer can prevent this activity. Being aware is the first step. No matter how profitable your company is, you can be vulnerable to employee theft unless you implement smart internal controls to mitigate your risks.
A trusted B2B CFO® can help minimize fraud occurrences by implementing effective internal procedures and controls. We can ensure that you have preventative controls in place and an appropriate level of security for the company’s financial books and records.
Contact us today to learn about smart internal controls you can implement quickly and easily.