Employee Theft on the Rise
December 15, 2008
It’s probably no surprise to anyone that internal employee theft is up sharply this year as the economy continues to decline. A recent Wall Street Journal/MSN article cited a study that found that 20% of polled employers said that workplace theft has become “a moderate to very big problem” in recent months.
Clearly, the workplace is the most obvious target for theft by employees. It creates the easiest and probably most lucrative opportunity. Employees know the inner workings of their company. They know who’s watching what and also what isn’t being watched. Some might actually feel justified in stealing because they fear being laid off or are upset that a raise or Christmas bonus wasn’t in the cards this year.
So, how can background checks help? We’ll start with the easiest scenario. If a criminal background check revealed past convictions for theft or theft-related crimes then you know you might have a problem. A credit report can also help you assess risk. If for instance, the person has no available credit left and has monthly payment responsibilities that are greater than the amount you are offering, that can be a predictor of future behavior. Perhaps, the individual stole from a past employer, but was never prosecuted, an reference interview with a past employer could reveal something of value.
But not everyone who steals from their employer has something on their background check at the time of their hiring that would cause you pause for concern. That is a very good point. Many employers are now conducting recurring background checks on their employees. These checks are conducted throughout an employee’s tenure with an organization and can reveal if the person has been convicted of any crimes since the time of the initial background check or if their credit situation has changed.
Of course, nothing is guaranteed, but I guarantee if these concerns would have come up on a background check and you didn’t conduct one, that you put yourself at considerable risk.