A new study, which fingers some unlikely suspects, reports that loss due to embezzlement is down slightly this year.
Who's most likely to embezzle? A female employee above age 40 without a prior criminal history working in finance or accounting—and living in Vermont.
Boston consulting firm Marquet International Ltd released its annual study of major embezzlement cases, this year examining 473 active cases, each with more than $100,000 in reported losses.
Nearly two-thirds of 2011's incidents involved female perpetrators, although men embezzle, on average, 25 percent more. Nearly three quarters of crimes were committed by employees who held finance and accounting positions, with an average age of 47.9 years old. Just five percent had any criminal history.
Vermont took top dishonors as the state with the highest risk for loss due to embezzlement, followed by Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Montana, Virginia, Iowa and Idaho.
Financial institutions were the type of firm most at risk of suffering from embezzlement, with nonprofits a close second.
"Banks and financial organizations—perhaps because that is where the money is—and nonprofits, including religious organizations, probably due to their weak business controls environment, are most often the victims of this type of white collar crime," said Christopher Marquet, CEO of Marquet International, in a statement.
Other industries likely to be hit: healthcare, food and agriculture, manufacturing, real estate, government, apparel, education, automotive, construction, and business services.
The total number of major embezzlement cases fell slightly, down two percent from 2010, but losses were high: $750,000 was the average reported loss per firm. The average embezzler in this study stole $15,189 per month from their employer for an average of five years.
The most common embezzlement scheme in 2011: Forgery or unauthorized issuance of company checks.
Gambling may be a motivating factor: Nearly a quarter (22 percent) of the cases involved perpetrators who reportedly had gambling issues.
“Unfortunately, 2011 was another banner year for employee theft in the United States, experiencing only a slight drop in frequency from the frenetic pace set in 2010,” Marquet said. “Employee theft is not going away any time soon.”
Inc. contributing editor COURTNEY RUBIN was for five years a London-based staff writer for People magazine. Rubin, a former senior writer for Washingtonian magazine, has written for the New York Times magazine, Time, Marie Claire, and other publications. She is the author of The Weight-Loss Diaries.