The average employee thief is not as sophisticated as the man who ripped off Philip Crosby Associates Inc. "Very few losses are actually the result of an ingenious plan," says Jurg Mattman, a consultant in loss prevention. "What they see is a weakness that they can exploit."
Here are a few simple steps for closing common security gaps:
* Separate financial duties. Separate bookkeepers should record transactions and prepare bills, and another executive should authorize all checks. "No one person should control a transaction from beginning to end," warns Joseph Wells, a certified public accountant and fraud investigator in Austin.
* Screen applicants. If you're hiring an executive with fiduciary duties, ask references for the names of other references, and send them a photograph to check identification. Talk to neighbors, and make sure to investigate gaps in employment.
* Set an example. As the owner, you may think it's harmless to be taking cash out of the register or lugging home office supplies, but it sends a dangerous message to employees.
* Don't trust anyone completely. Your right-hand man might have his left hand in your pocket. Check up on him as you would anyone else.
* Talk about it. Tell workers that security is a team effort. If the company loses money, so do they. Tell them about safeguards you've put in and stress the punishment that awaits offenders. Remember: co-workers spot about a third of all thefts.
* Analyze plant layout. Physical layout sometimes helps make theft easy. At one manufacturer, employees were supposed to load goods into a truck next to a dumpster. Instead, they dropped them into the dumpster and retrieved them later. The lesson: build trash compactors into the wall or put the receptacle in full view.