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Red Flags: Signals That Staff May Be Stealing

A vice president of loan operations recently pled guilty in court to stealing more than $600,000 from a Tennessee bank where she worked.

The woman admitted to stealing, embezzling, misapplying, and concealing funds. She said she used her position to significantly lower the mortgage on her parents' home; pay off her own $200,000 mortgage with bank funds; and write cashier's checks to pay for more than $350,000 in personal expenses. She also admitted to failing to report the additional income on her tax filings.

She told the court she embezzled from her employer because she thought she wasn't paid enough to adequately compensate her for her work. Therefore, she stole the money to "rectify the situation."

The woman faces up to 30 years in prison. Valerie Edwards "Tennessee bank executive admits to stealing $600,000 from her employers because she believed she 'wasn't getting paid enough'" (Dec. 03, 2019).

Commentary and Checklist

Believing they should be paid more is often cited as a motivator for internal employee theft.

One red flag that a staff member might be stealing from you is living outside of his or her means, for example, having a home or a car that is outside an employee’s income level.

Other signs of embezzlement include never taking vacation or sick days; being overly secretive at work; asking about financial information that he or she does not need to know; and seeking to work without supervision. Financial records disappearing or being modified and unexpected charges to your financial accounts are other signs of embezzlement.

Make it a habit to talk with your staff members and show interest in their lives. If you learn that a staff member is going through a difficult time, help him or her find resources to assist the situation. Helping staffers address life issues increases the odds that they will cope in a way other than by stealing.

Some of the other reasons that could motivate staff to embezzle include:

•  An addiction to drugs or alcohol;

•  A gambling addiction;

•  High levels of debt;

•  Living outside of his or her means;

•  Philandering or sex addiction;

•  Unanticipated medical expenses;

•  A divorce;

•  A death in the family;

•  The birth or adoption of a child; and

         •  Feeling underpaid or under-appreciated in his or her job.

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