By Carl Santa Maria, CPCU
How much can trusted employees steal from you before you catch them?
That is a question all business owners should ask themselves to determine if they have the right safeguards in place to prevent, minimize, or recover from employee theft.
According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) 2014 global fraud study:
- The typical organization loses 5% of its revenue each year to employee fraud, with a median loss of $145,000
- On average, the fraud continues for 18 months before detected
- The smallest organizations suffer disproportionately large losses due to employee fraud.
Driven to steal
Often the perpetrator is a long-term, trusted employee, maybe even a family member, who has direct access to the financial working of the company. While the person might not fit the stereotype of a criminal, there might be an underlying issue such as drug, alcohol or gambling addiction that can drive him or her to steal.
The fraud can take many forms, but it most often involves taking small amounts of money or products over a long period, with manipulation of financial statements to hide the fraud. While most fraud is committed by low- and mid-level employees, high-level employees are responsible for 19% of fraud, with the highest average loss of $500,000.
A recent example is the conviction and sentencing of former Oklahoma state senator Rick Brinkley who admitted to stealing $1.8 million from the Better Business Bureau (BBB), where he had been an executive for the past 16 years.
Over a 10-year period, Brinkley created fraudulent invoices from fake corporations for services not rendered and then submitted them to the BBB as legitimate expenses, using the money to pay his bills and support his gambling habit.
Take action now
Going back to the opening question concerning how much an employee could steal before you find out, it’s important that you understand your current risk and do these three things to minimize your risk and potential losses:
- Strengthen anti-fraud controls: Review the checks and balances and other safeguards you have in place to prevent and detect fraud. The better your controls, the quicker you will detect fraud and the lower your losses, according to the ACFE study.
- Match insurance limits to expected losses: Most commercial package insurance policies cover crime-related losses, but the maximum is typically well below what you will actually lose.
- Get expert advice: A high-quality, experienced insurance broker will help you determine your maximum potential losses from employee fraud, advise you on strengthening your anti-fraud controls, and help you set adequate insurance limits to protect your business.
No matter how dedicated and honest your employees might appear, it is important that you take these necessary steps to protect the business you have worked so hard to build.
Carl Santa Maria is Chairman and CEO of Santa Maria & Company (SMC), a risk management consultancy and commercial insurance brokerage in the San Francisco Bay area with deep expertise helping companies protect what is most important to them: their assets, their employees, and their futures. Contact SMC at 925-956-7600 or online at www.smcrisk.com.
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