Employee theft on the rise
26 August 2008
For immediate release
Employee theft on the rise
Employees are turning to the till to make ends meet as the economic downturn continues to bite.
With daylight home burglaries up 30 per cent in Christchurch during the past two months, police are warning people to be vigilant, but Peter Moore of RISC, the Retail and Industrial Surveillance Company, says that’s a message business owners would do well to heed too.
Mr Moore says the number of covert video surveillance systems installed by RISC in and around Christchurch year to date is up 50% on 2007, with a 90% success rate.
“Many business owners are shocked to find that staff members have taken from the business,” says Peter Moore.
“They just can’t believe that it could happen to them. They trust their staff and believe that trust is a two-way thing.”
Harder economic times can lead to desperation, especially for people with high debt levels to service. Mr Moore says in his experience the culprits often have similar stories, those with gaming or drug habits, and those who are driven to maintain a lifestyle beyond their means.
One North Canterbury business owner paid the price for misplaced trust recently, when an employee was found to have taken $60,000 from the business over a period of several months.
The theft was revealed after the business owner decided to take action and hire RISC to mount a covert video surveillance operation.
Most thefts range between hundreds and several thousand dollars and take place over time, a little bit here and there.
From bakeries to multi-nationals, no business is immune from the threat of employee theft. Yet despite “gut feelings” to the contrary, business owners are generally hesitant to bring the cameras in.
“We have many clients who know that something is up and have good grounds to be suspicious, but still feel uncomfortable “spying” on their staff. It’s the last straw for them.”
Legally, employers do not have to warn staff about covert cameras on the premises, but hidden cameras are a temporary measure and employers cannot install cameras permanently to monitor staff.
“We’re licensed security guards, so we can
mount covert video surveillance operations and review the
video evidence,” Mr Moore says.
“We usually try to capture more than one “incident” on video, and then we’ll provide the business owner with a DVD showing the video footage and the relevant dates and times.”
The majority of business owners are reluctant to involve the police and prosecute. They want their money back and for the employee to “go quietly”. But the reality is that employees tend to move on and strike again.
“We’ve been in business for 13 years, and we’ve seen some familiar faces in that time. Business owners need to be really vigilant about reference checks, especially if the candidate’s C.V. shows short stints here and there.”
Prevention is still the best defence against employee theft. Peter Moore urges business owners to be robust about their cash handling and till systems.
“At the end of the day, if you’re cash strapped with your back against the wall, you’ll find a way to work the system.
“You’ve got to pour money and expertise in to safeguarding that system. It could save a lot of heartache and cash or product in the long run.”