Employees steal most often from small businesses, Hiscox study finds

By Cate Chapman on May 14, 2015

The smaller the organization, the more likely it is to be robbed by an employee, according to a study.

Specialty insurer Hiscox USA said federal actions involving employee theft in 2014 showed almost 72 percent involved organizations with fewer than 500 employees.

“We found that four of every five victim organizations had fewer than 100 employees; more than half had fewer than 25 employees,” said the study, which also looked at the most prevalent types of theft, the profiles of employees who committed them and tips for mitigation.

More than half of Americans work at companies with fewer than 500 employees, according to the Dept. of Labor Statistics.

Median losses grew with the size of the company, the study found. Organizations with fewer than 150 employees lost $256,858, those with between 150 and 250 workers were robbed of $308,299, and those with between 250 and 500 employees lost $420,000.

More than 21 percent of employee thefts, the largest industry concentration, involved an organization in the financial services category, including banks, credit unions and insurance companies.

Other organizations with a high concentration of employee thefts were non-profits (11 percent), labor unions (9 percent) and municipalities (10 percent), the study said.

Other findings include:

  • Outright funds theft, which includes the direct theft of cash or misuse of bank deposits or transfers, accounted for almost three-fourths of total losses (at $21 million) and 38 percent of thefts.
  • Other types of theft, in order of frequency, were check fraud (34 percent), credit card fraud (8 percent), payroll fraud (7 percent), vendor fraud (6 percent) and other (7 percent).
  • Check fraud accounted for the second-largest loss ($16.8 million), while vendor fraud accounted for the third ($6.3 million).
  • Women accounted for 60 percent of outright funds theft. Men accounted for two-thirds of vendor fraud, in which funds are diverted through submission of false invoices.
  • While the median loss from outright funds theft was $238,000, it was $600,000 for vendor fraud.

Tips for mitigating risk at small business are: (1) send bank statements directly to your home for a review to ensure they can’t be falsified prior to reconciling accounts (2) periodically review payroll reports to look for anomalies (3) sign all of the checks yourself or keep the signature stamp under lock and key.

Hiscox Embezzlement Infographic_050415