As a fraud examiner, I see a lot of stories come through my pipeline and talk to many business owners about fraud and theft within their businesses. It amazes me to hear the finer details – the dirt, grit and grime of “how it all started”. Bottom line, the main issue has been trust. Too much trust, in fact.
Where does a business owner draw the line between being able to trust your employees to carry out their responsibilities and having to keep a close, watchful eye on them? It’s exhausting and many owners have come to me asking, “Isn’t there a better way”? And of course, I reply “How are your controls?” The check and double-check of the balance scale comes into play – and it’s so simple. Have an open line of communication with all employees – nearly 76% of all fraud investigations start with a tip. Segregate your duties, people.
I have had employees steal time (payroll), data (customer lists, phone numbers), supplies, inventory, equipment, you name it. And I’m a fraud examiner – how dare they steal from one! The nerve… It happens to the best of us.
I recently sat for the CFI (Certified Forensic Interviewer) exam. Haven’t gotten my test scores yet but I’m anxious to see if I passed. A CFI is trained and certified to interview employees and/or suspects in cases. Using these skills, I have started asking the same question 3 different ways to determine if I’m getting the same story each time. Watching the eyes, body language, handwriting, etc. If you suspect theft in your organization – have you started evaluating the person’s behavior? If not, it’s time to start.
Has the person become more distant? Has the person gotten a little TOO close to your clients? Are they all of a sudden disinterested in carrying out their job responsibility? These are questions to start evaluating during the course of employment.
It’d be nice to think that we could trust everyone, and theoretically you can. Trust in the fact that when a person becomes unhappy in their life or even their position, they might take it out on your business. Use caution, use judgment, and good luck.