Ripping Off the Boss: 33 Surprising Employee Theft Statistics

Ripping Off the Boss: 33 Surprising Employee Theft Statistics
ByMilica Milenkovic
September 24,2021

Employees are one of your business’s most valuable assets. However, their dishonesty can be costly. A single thief can ruin a company’s finances, shatter morale, and erase months of hard work. Despite efforts by employers to minimize the risk of internal fraud, employee theft statistics show that this type of offense occurs in all areas of business. Employee crime types include everything from larceny to embezzlement and expense reimbursement schemes to time theft. 

Are the consequences of internal theft quantifiable? How long does proving employee theft take? What business types run a higher risk of such offenses? Keep reading to find out.

Employee Theft Statistics - Editor’s Choice

  • Organizations around the world lose approximately 5% of their revenue to employee fraud and occupational abuse each year. 
  • Time theft schemes affect approximately 75% of all US-based businesses.
  • US businesses lose up to $110 million a day due to employee-related crimes.
  • The average dishonest employee case value increased by 11% between 2018 and 2019.
  • More than two-thirds of all corruption cases are perpetrated by a person in a position of authority. 
  • A typical employee theft scheme lasts 14 months before it’s detected. 
  • The risk of billing fraud and payroll schemes is twice as high in small businesses compared to large enterprises. 
  • Only 4% of employee theft perpetrators have prior fraud convictions, based on 2016 data.

Overall Impact of Occupational Theft

The scope of employee theft and position abuse cannot be understated. From buddy punching to employees stealing the company’s information and money, there are so many ways to harm the companies they work for. While some of these acts can seem minor, it’s important to understand the impact of the problem at all levels. That’s the only way to prevent occupational theft in the future.

Two-thirds of all US-based small businesses fall victim to employee theft, according to employee fraud stats.

(National Federation of Independent Business)

Only 16% of companies call the police to launch an employee theft investigation.

(National Federation of Independent Business)

In 2020, asset misappropriation was the most common scheme perpetrators used to defraud their employers and appeared in 86% of the cases examined globally.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

Corruption followed with 43%, while financial statement fraud was found in 10% of the cases. Many cases were examples of at least two of the aforementioned employee theft mechanisms.

Clocking someone when they aren’t actually at work, also known as “buddy punching”, and similar time theft schemes affect approximately 75% of all businesses in the US.

(Replicon)

Employee theft prosecution data shows that typically 14 months go by between the time when a scheme begins and when it’s detected.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

According to a recent study, the most common methods used by perpetrators to conceal employee theft include creating fraudulent physical documents (40%), altering physical documents (36%), altering electronic documents or files (27%), creating fraudulent electronic documents or files (26%). Approximately 12% did not even try to conceal the fraud.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

Based on small business employee theft statistics, up to 60% of all cases involve ongoing schemes ranging from two weeks to 20 years.

(National Federation of Independent Business)

More than 40% of the cases are uncovered through tips provided by an employee, customer, vendor, or anonymously, employee fraud statistics reveal.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

According to employee fraud case stats, 59% of ex-employees admitted to stealing the company’s sensitive information when leaving previous jobs.

(American Bar Association)

The Cost of Internal Theft

Projecting total business losses attributable to employee theft is an essential part of all internal fraud prevention strategies. However, given the number of unknown factors that contribute to it, measuring the cost of theft at work is an incredibly complicated endeavor. Each year, companies lose millions of dollars to different types of internal theft. According to employee theft statistics, some businesses even go bankrupt as a result of such offenses.

Still, so many cases never come to light. In addition, the full financial impact of the fraudulent activity that’s actually detected is also difficult to calculate. Due to these limitations, all attempts to quantify the damage caused by employee theft are imperfect. However, research institutes and similar institutions put in a lot of effort to gain insights and raise awareness about these issues. Here are some of the most interesting cost-related employee fraud stats we've come across:

Certified fraud examiners estimate that organizations around the world lose approximately 5% of their revenue to employee fraud and occupational abuse each year. That’s more than $4.5 trillion in annual financial damage.

(International Monetary Fund, Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

Based on global internal theft statistics, the median loss per fraud was $100,000 in Sub-Saharan Africa, $117,000 in Southern Asia, $120,000 in the United States and Canada, $133,000 in Western/Central Asia and Eastern Europe, $139,000 in Western Europe, $100,000 in MENA, $195,000 in the Asia-Pacific region, and $200,000 in Latin America and the Caribbean.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

Public and private organizations around the world suffered a median loss of $150,000 to occupational fraud in 2020.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

Approximately 21% of employee fraud cases analyzed in a 2020 survey caused financial losses of more than $1 million.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

According to a recent study, companies faced a median loss of $954,000 per financial statement fraud. While this may be among the least common types of workplace theft, it’s also the costliest.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

Employee time theft statistics indicate that the cost of clocking someone in when they aren’t there can go up to 7% of a US company’s gross annual payroll.

(Replicon)

It’s estimated that US businesses lose up to $110 million a day due to employee-related crimes.

(Hire Power Associates)

Based on retail employee theft statistics, the average dishonest employee case value was $1,380.62 in 2019, an increase of 11% from 2018’s average of $1,243.73.

(Jack L. Hayes International)

Statistics on Employee Theft by Industry Type and Company Size

Companies of all shapes and sizes should be aware of employee theft. But studies show that certain organizations are more vulnerable than others. While scheme mechanisms can vary widely by industry, it seems that employee theft cases are commonly found in small and medium-sized enterprises. Although it may sound counterintuitive, smaller businesses with a close-knit workforce are particularly at risk because of how empowered and trusted their employees are.

Employee theft statistics indicate that the risk of billing fraud and payroll schemes is twice as high in small businesses compared to large enterprises. Check and payment tampering is four times more likely in smaller organizations.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

According to a corporate theft study conducted in the US, approximately 80% of all organizations that fell victim to embezzlement had fewer than 100 employees; just under 50% had up to 25 people on the payroll.

(Hiscox Inc.)

One-third of all US employee theft cases in 2016 involved financial service companies or organizations in non-profit industries.

(Hiscox Inc.)

Based on recent global workplace theft statistics, the list of industries with the highest proportion of corruption cases includes energy (53%), manufacturing (51%), and government and public administration (50%).

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

Statistics on employee theft in the US indicate that more than 40% of all schemes that took place in 2016 were perpetrated by those working in the finance or accounting sectors.

(Hiscox Inc.)

Approximately 70% of all corruption cases that were recently analyzed had been perpetrated by a manager, owner, executive, or a person in a similar position of authority.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

Who Commits Employee Fraud?

Profiles of employees involved in theft can vary when it comes to age, profession, and motivation. However, there's one thing most of them have in common - they are usually the least suspicious.

For example, employee theft stats reveal that embezzlers tend to be smart and liked. These are often people who experience financial hardship and thus gain the motivation to start stealing money from work. Additionally, these employees usually have access to the company’s funds through title or tenure and also possess the skillset to commit this type of fraud.

Most theft cases start out as “one-time loans” that the employee intends to pay back as soon as possible. Still, most perpetrators come back for more and try to justify the wrongdoing - some of them consider themselves underpaid, and others feel like there’s no other way to provide for their families. If they don’t get caught stealing from their employer, they probably won’t break the cycle.

Men were involved in 72% of all occupational theft cases in 2020.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

According to corporate fraud statistics, male perpetrators caused larger median losses ($150,000) than female offenders ($85,000).

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

Research conducted in the US recently found that the median age of an employee who committed embezzlement, fraud, or larceny at work was 49.

(Hiscox Inc.)

Very few employees who commit theft have prior fraud convictions. Research shows that only 4% of the culprits have a prior fraud conviction.

(Hiscox Inc.)

As far as motivation goes, employee theft statistics reveal that 42% of occupational fraudsters who got caught lived beyond their means, while 26% were experiencing financial difficulties.

(Association of Certified Fraud Examiners)

Real-Life Employee Fraud Cases

Here’s a list of some of the most shocking employee theft cases that took place in the US throughout the last few decades:

A bookkeeper from Maryland defrauded four different non-profit organizations and stole more than $1.3 million that was intended to provide services for homeless families and disadvantaged children.

(Hiscox Inc.)

A Texas bakery executive and his spouse stole $16.7 million over 15 years by using company checks to pay for personal expenses.

(Hiscox Inc.)

A Cincinnati controller at a manufacturer stole $8.7 million in 11 years through fraudulent checks.

(Hiscox Inc.)

The controller of a hedge fund in Connecticut embezzled more than $9 million in nine years by transferring the company’s money to accounts he controlled.

(Hiscox Inc.)

A bookkeeper embezzled $155,460 from a Kansas nursing center.

(Hiscox Inc.)

When she was caught, it turned out that she had also stolen from multiple previous employers. Working as a bookkeeper meant that she was violating her parole on previous business fraud charges.

Glossary
T
Time theft - Based on employee theft statistics, this is one of the most common forms of occupational fraud. It’s defined as using work hours (the company’s time) to conduct personal business.
P
Payroll schemes - The most common payroll schemes involve writing payroll checks to employees that aren’t part of the company anymore or “phantom employees” and falsifying timesheets and timecards to claim compensation for hours not worked.
B
Billing schemes - This involves setting up false vendor accounts and causing the company that’s the victim of the fraud to issue fraudulent payments by submitting inflated invoices, invoices for personal purchases, or invoices for non-existent goods or services.
I
Information theft - This is another common type of employee theft that isn’t strictly money-related. It happens when an employee gives away its company’s secrets to a third party such as a competitor.
L
Larceny - This type of employee theft refers to the act of taking cash or property from the company you are working for. It covers several different acts. Anything from stealing inventory from the loading dock to taking cash out of the register qualifies as larceny.
E
Embezzlement - Embezzlement can be defined as using funds for a different purpose than the one they were intended for. This type of theft is usually perpetrated by a person in a position of authority (such as a senior executive or a bookkeeper).
Expense reimbursement schemes - Fraudulent expense reimbursement occurs when an employee pads expense report by adding items that are either non-business related or non-existent.
Frequently Asked Questions
How common is employee theft?

Employee theft is much more common than you’d imagine. It’s estimated that almost two-thirds of all small businesses based in the US fall victim to some form of employee theft. Asset misappropriation, corruption, and financial statement fraud are the most common schemes perpetrators use to defraud their employers.

How much do companies lose from employee theft?

Financial specialists estimate that companies of all industries and sizes operating all around the world lose 5% of their revenue to employee theft each year. That’s more than $4.5 trillion in annual financial damage on the global level. Based on 2020 employee theft examples and statistics, organizations suffered a median loss of $150,000 to occupational fraud. 

How much value is lost in the United States each year due to employee theft?

US businesses lose up to $110 million per day due to employee-related crimes. Still, many cases of employees stealing go unnoticed or unreported. Even when occupational fraud and position abuse do get detected, it’s hard to quantify the exact amount of financial damage.

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