A report compiled by NatWest Bank that I contributed to in November 2020, states that businesses lost £88 Million to employee fraud the previous year. And this figure only represents fraud. Once you bring theft into the equation, you will have a significantly higher figure. Not to mention that these figures of fraud are generally based on investigations where an employee has been charged and convicted.
How much goes undetected? At least double in my opinion.
Pre Covid figures showed that when an employee committed theft and was caught:
30% stated there were no control issues in place
19% overrode exiting controls
Therefore, over almost 50% of control measures were, in effect, useless.
This is not surprising when a business concerns itself more with an external theft, such as a criminal breaking into their premises or a fraudster ‘hacking’ into their systems. When implementing security systems either physical or It based, the focus is rarely on the opportunities provided for the dishonest employee. Known as The Insider Threat.
And if fraud is discovered, then how? Figures from the Association of Fraud Examiners Report to the Nation in 2018 (there is a report every 4 years) identified that fraud is discovered by the following methods:
Why does a good law abiding citizen suddenly become dishonest? This is a question I have answered many times over the years in articles, features and seminars. But, to put it simply:
The employee identifies the opportunity. They then rationalise their actions. And the motivation for their dishonesty is financial reward.
This is what is known as ‘The Fraud Triangle’ or Cressey’s Triangle, after the American criminologist Donald Cressey who developed it:
The dishonest employee’s activity is almost always based around their normal routine activity, as that is where the three points of the triangle are most likely to meet.
For 22 years I have been investigating all aspects of employee dishonesty. From criminal theft and fraud, but also the civil offences of theft of data and false absenteeism. More recently that has included false claims of a positive Covid case and isolation. Time and again, I always see the correlation of Cressey’s Triangle.
There is another commonality in my experience. Rarely is the dishonest activity identified by measures put in place by the businesses. The academia reflects the reality that control measures are limited and when they are put in place, they are easily overridden. Less than 1 in 5 SMEs have conducted a fraud risk assessment.
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The current working environment is something that we may not have envisaged and many workplaces will be different to those pre-Covid. Covid may be with us permanently and so too will be the changes made in workplaces throughout the world. The workplace will change not only to streamline it from a cost perspective but also from the business continuity perspective, should a virus on this or indeed a smaller scale attack in the future.
I believe businesses will want flexibility; a reduction in the number of employees, increased use of sub-contracted services, more use of remote working and less people within the working space, to name just some of the changes.
How effective will control measures that businesses have in place at present be in a future working environment? Figures have shown how ineffective those control measures previously established have been. So, there is no reason to expect thing to improve in a new working environment in the future.
The SME sector, which is the most vulnerable to employee dishonesty, is also the sector which has the least control measures.
There will be less natural surveillance within the workplace, with less staff and more autonomy for employees when and where to work.
There will be less dedication to the business as remoteness may reduce loyalty to the business.
Employee’s rationalisation may change to the business in not having the benefit of others to work remotely and the associated travel costs etc.
There will be less territoriality in the business with less individuals who are dedicated to their sector of the business being on site or in role.
There are a number of things that a business can do to prevent and disrupt dishonest employees:
Be mature, realistic and responsible. Accept it can and will happen to you.
Conduct a gap analysis: work from the broad and general to the specific.
Get education in this subject that is a real threat but overlooked by decision makers.
Where necessary get training in the required areas where there is a skill gap.
Conduct a security review (use external suppliers for the skill set and impartiality).
Thanks to my wealth of experience, I can help you prevent and disrupt dishonest employees before you have to detect them. Find out more here.
The most important thing to remember is Cressey’s Triangle. The rationalisation for employees may change. The majority of employees that are already or will become dishonest, do so because of financial gain, status and therefore control. But with hybrid and remote working, along with the other new considerations for a workplace, the opportunity for dishonesty has increased. They will weigh up the pros and cons and maybe now the pros stack up significantly more in favour than the cons, as the chance of identification and being caught will potentially be reduced.
Fighting dishonest employees starts from within. It’s time to act. Book a consulation today: