Keeping sticky hands out of the till


What signs should I watch for to head off employee embezzlement?

What signs should I watch for to head off employee embezzlement?

"During 30 years of practice, employees have embezzled from me three times," says Dr. Karl Salzsieder, JD, an advisory board member and a consultant, veterinarian, and attorney in Kelso, Wash.

Dr. Karl Salzsieder, JD

"I recommend watching for differences in habits, behavior, and attitudes. The signs can be subtle and not what you expect."

For example, an employee who's stealing may suddenly rush to leave early-or may start staying later to catch up, he says. Good employees may become klutzy or slow, while a problem worker could become the perfect person to have around. "They're compensating for the cover-up; they want to be the last person you'd suspect," Dr. Salzsieder says.

Opportunity is one of three temptations that lead to embezzlement; the other two are need and the ability to justify the theft. One key step to eliminate opportunity: Build a system that divides responsibility so different people deposit checks and record them in the accounting system. Ideally, one person never takes a monetary task from start to finish-which reduces the risk of embezzlement, Dr. Salzsieder says.

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