Last June, Linda Clark, a 68-year-old bookkeeper, who worked for a credit union in Iowa, plead guilty to embezzling almost $2.5 million from her employer between 1978 until she resigned in 2015.

The SCICAP Credit Union in Chariton, Iowa, had to liquidate due to Clark's 37-year-long scheme, during which she diverted small sums of money into her bank account as well as those of her children.

Clark fits the profile of the average embezzler, according to a study that looked at over 400 embezzlement cases in federal court, conducted by insurance provider Hiscox. The study found the average embezzler to be a small-business, middle-aged employee who works in the accounting and finance department. Perps were female in 41 percent of the cases.

Clark's scheme went on longer than average, but the majority of schemes, 28.7 percent, go on for five years with an average theft amount of $2.2 million. For schemes that last 10 years, the average loss hits $5.4 million.

Smaller businesses are more at risk to employee theft. The report finds that 55 percent of embezzlement cases occurred at businesses with 100 employees or less, with an average loss of $1.3 million.

Most schemes are not master plans pulled off by criminal masterminds, the Hiscox study finds. The majority divert small sums of money over time, which makes them difficult to detect. The most common method was funds theft, which means an employee, manager, or executive is transferring money from the business to their own accounts. The study also found cases of check fraud (when a person alters a check to be payable to themselves), vendor fraud, and false billing (the third-most common type of fraud, accounting for 42 percent of all embezzlement dollars lost), credit card fraud, property theft, payroll fraud, and loan fraud.

Most embezzlement cases occur in financial services, but every industry is at risk.

"We need to dispel the myth that embezzlement is all about elaborate schemes constructed by financial wizards," said M. Jeffrey Beatrice, former managing director and general counsel for Anti

Published on: Aug 24, 2017