Worried about employee theft? Prevention techniques can be easy to employ and save you thousands — possibly millions — of dollars.
Just this year, a dealership employee in Alabama was charged with first-degree employee theft after investigators discovered she had stolen more than $30,000 over a nine-month period by making several unauthorized charges. In South Carolina, a couple was arrested for stealing more than $2 million from a dealership. The wife was an employee of the dealership and wrote fraudulent checks to pay for personal credit cards her husband was using.
These employee theft scenarios are not unique, and your dealership is not immune. According to the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, the average organization loses about five percent of its revenue to fraud every single year.
Hiring new dealership employees is hard work. You want to make sure you choose the right person for each job, so you are meticulous about reviewing resumes, checking references, and conducting thorough interviews. Building an effective, successful team is important to you, and it shows.
One thing that’s hard to identify, however, even with an intense hiring process, is whether or not an employee will steal from you. And while you may not think theft is a problem in your dealership, there’s a chance your staff has taken something right from under your nose at some point.
Employee theft prevention techniques for auto dealerships
1. Spread responsibility
Most dealerships are small businesses, and it’s not uncommon for a variety of duties to fall on one person. When one employee, however, has total control over financials, they may feel like they can get away with theft. Divide up tasks among at least two or three employees so you can get extra sets of eyes on everything. For example, if one employee has the authority to sign checks, another individual should be responsible for processing the check payments.
2. Encourage vacations
When employees are burned out, even the most loyal people may be tempted to engage in theft. Maybe it’s just a few post-it pads, or maybe it’s something more, like parts from the shop or petty cash. When employees are given more, they are less likely to take.
3. Keep an eye on high-risk employees
You shouldn’t be prying into the private lives of employees, but sometimes they’ll overshare and provide information that could give you insight into theft motivators. Employees at a higher risk of stealing tend to have financial pressures, like living beyond their means and unpaid bills, or addictions, like drinking, drugs, or gambling. Consider ways you may be able to help or support these employees through their struggles.
4. Invest in annual audits
One of the best methods for employee theft prevention is to hire a firm to conduct an internal audit every year. Audits can be costly, but if employees are aware that you conduct a yearly audit, they’ll be less likely to think they can get away with skimming a little off the top.
5. Have bank statements sent to your home
Don’t entrust every single financial detail to your employees. When the bank statements arrive, look for red flags like lack of signature, checks payable to individuals or credit card companies, altered checks, and wire transfers. Question anything that looks suspicious; even if the transaction is completely valid, your team will know you’re engaged in the process and always watching.
6. Make employees feel appreciated
Some employees steal simply because they feel undervalued or underpaid. They don’t see it as stealing, and they may justify their actions by telling themselves they “deserve” to take something. Take some time to think about how you treat your employees and brainstorm ways you can show them they are valued throughout the year.
7. Communicate your zero-tolerance policy
The best technique for employee theft prevention is to establish an anti-theft atmosphere at your dealership. Employees should be extremely clear that you have a zero-tolerance policy, and any theft — whether it’s office supplies or thousands of dollars — will not be permitted. Create a fraud reporting system that allows employees to come to you in a confidential way if they suspect another employee of theft.
If you believe that an employee may be stealing from you, visit your HR or legal department first to determine the best way to deal with it. Accusing an employee of theft is extremely serious, and can come back to bite you if they have not done anything illegal. When it comes to employee theft prevention, you can never be too careful.
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