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.


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.


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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

More from blog

Women account for 50.8% of the US population, hold 57% of all undergraduate degrees, and approximately 60% of all master’s degrees. And even though they hold about 52% of all management-level jobs, American women cannot keep pace with men in terms of representation when it comes to top leadership roles.  As male vs. female CEO statistics show, it’s the profit and loss roles or P&L responsibilities such as leading a brand, unit, or division, that set executives on the track to becoming a CEO. On the other hand, women who advance into C-suites - the “chief” jobs in companies - typically take on the roles such as head of human resources, legal, or administration. Although all of these functions are extremely important, the line of work they focus on doesn’t involve profit-generating responsibilities, which rarely makes them a path to running a company. Why does the percentage of CEOs that are female remain low in all parts of the world? There isn’t a simple answer to this question. Several studies have shown that it’s the fusion of work-life constraints, early professional trade-offs, and firmly established attitudes towards women in power and the skills and traits that make a good leader that can explain why the careers of equally ambitious and capable men and women often take such different turns. Let’s take a look at some of the most interesting findings. Male vs Female CEO Statistics - Editor’s Choice Female CEOs are running 41 Fortune 500 companies. There are two Black women among the Fortune 500 CEOs. Women made up only 5% of the CEOs appointed in 2020 globally. At the CEO level, men outnumber women by approximately 17 to one.  59% of male employees aspire to become CEOs versus 40% of women. 77% of women say the biggest obstacle to gender equity at the workplace is the lack of information on how to advance. Between 2015 and 2020, the share of women in senior vice president roles in the US increased from 23% to 28%. (McKinsey & Company) Over the same period, the percentage of women in the C-suite went up from 17% to 21%. All women, especially those of color, remained significantly outnumbered in senior management positions. However, prior to the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the representation of female workers in corporate America was slowly trending in the right direction.  According to 2020 statistics on female CEOs in the United States, 21% of C-suite members were women.  (McKinsey & Company)  Based on the survey results published by McKinsey & Company, there’s a leaky pipeline for women in leadership. In 2020, female workers accounted for 47% of entry-level positions, 38% of management roles, and 33% senior management/director roles. Women were entrusted with under one third (29%) of all vice president positions in American organizations. For every 100 men who got promoted to a managerial role, only 85 women advanced to the same position, based on the 2020 data.  (McKinsey & Company) This gap was even larger for women of color as only 71 Latinas, and 58 Black women received a promotion. Consequently, women remained underrepresented at the managerial level holding just 38% of manager positions, while men accounted for 62%. Male vs female CEO statistics from 2020 indicate that 39% of senior-level women burned out compared to 29% of men. (McKinsey & Company) Furthermore, 36% of women felt pressured to work more, in comparison with 27% of men. At the same time, 54% of C-suite women reported that they constantly felt exhausted, and so did 41% of men in similar positions. More than 50% of women in senior leadership roles promote gender and racial equality at work, in comparison with approximately 40% of male top executives. (McKinsey & Company) Women in leadership positions are more likely than men in senior-level roles to take a public stand on racial and gender diversity and champion the advancement of employee-friendly programs and policies. Women CEOs are also more likely to sponsor and mentor other female workers. According to the results of a recent survey, 38% of women in senior-level positions currently mentor or sponsor at least one woman of color, compared to only 23% of men in the same roles.   Female CEOs are running 41 Fortune 500 companies. (Fortune, Statista) In 2021, the number of women appointed to CEO positions in America's 500 highest-grossing companies reached an all-time high. However, the new record still only translates to approximately 8% of female representation at the top of the country's largest public businesses.  On the plus side, the number of women CEOs of Fortune 500 companies almost doubled in comparison with 2018 when there were 24 females leading the nation’s biggest businesses. Calls for diversity and inclusion in the highest echelons of America’s business world are starting to bear fruit as the number of female Fortune 500 chief executive officers increased for the third consecutive year. The top five biggest female-led Fortune 500 businesses as of August 2021 are CVS Health (rank four), Walgreens Boots Alliance (rank 16), General Motors (rank 22), Anthem (rank 23), and Citigroup (rank 33).  Speaking of women in leadership roles, statistics show that there are two Black women among the Fortune 500 CEOs. (Fortune) For the first time, two Black women are running Fortune 500 businesses - Roz Brewer of Walgreens Boots Alliance (rank 16) and Thasunda Brown Duckett of TIAA (rank 79). Before Duckett and Brewer started their new jobs in 2021, only one Black woman - Ursula Burns, former Xerox chief - had ever been appointed CEO at a Fortune 500 business on a permanent basis. After Burnes stepped down from the role in 2017, and, with the exception of Bed Bath & Beyond's Mary Winston, who worked as interim chief for a few months in 2019, Black female chief executive officers have been missing from the Fortune 500 list ever since. Citigroup CEO Jane Fraser is the first woman to run a major Wall Street bank. (Fortune) Fraser’s appointment marked huge progress for the financial industry. Much like Dick's Sporting Goods chief Lauren Hobart, Clorox chief Linda Rendle, new Coty CEO Sue Nabi, Walgreens Boots Alliance’s Roz Brewer, Thasunda Brown Duckett of TIAA, and CVS’s CEO Karen Lynch, Fraser took over from a male CEO. Statistics on Fortune 500 CEOs by gender reveal that there were only 37 female and 463 male chiefs leading America’s highest earning businesses in 2000. (Fortune) The number of women in CEO positions in the Fortune 500 hasn’t been growing steadily throughout the last two decades. There were 24 female chiefs in 2015, 21 women CEOs in 2016, and 32 women running Fortune 500 businesses in 2017, while that number dropped to 24 in 2018.  At the median, 16 female CEOs earned $13.6 million in 2020, in comparison to $12.6 million for the 326 men included in a study. (Equilar) According to a study published in May 2021 comparing a male CEO salary vs. a female CEO salary, women have outpaced men in total pay but remained underrepresented in executive positions. Equilar’s study indicates that Lisa Su, the chief executive officer of Advanced Micro Devices, was the highest-paid woman for the second consecutive year and the highest-paid CEO overall in 2020.  Globally, women made up only 5% of the CEOs appointed in 2020. (Heidrick & Struggles) The highest percentage of newly-appointed female CEOs was in Ireland (15%), while the lowest was in Brazil (0%). This is according to a paper that analyzed the backgrounds of chief executives leading 965 of the largest companies in 20 markets around the world. It sought to identify the skills and experience that shaped their path to the top while taking different male vs. female CEO statistics into account.  At the CEO level, men outnumber women by approximately 17 to one.  (Morningstar) According to a study that explored the gender gap in US companies, the number of male executive officers is seven times higher than the number of women holding the same positions. More than 50% of the companies analyzed didn’t have a single female on their lists of executive officers. Jackie Cook, the author of the Morningstar report, found that online retail giant Amazon didn’t have any women among its highest-paid executives as of 2020.  Women who negotiate for raises and promotions are 30% more likely to be considered as "too aggressive" or "intimidating". (Business Insider) Speaking of male managers vs. female managers, statistics reveal that women who don’t negotiate at all are 67% less likely to receive the same negative feedback. The proportion of women in senior management roles increased from 20% in 2011 to 29% in 2020, globally. (Grant Thornton) As 2019 saw a jump of 5% compared to 2018 (amounting to a total of 29%), 2020 represents a leveling off of the progress made during the previous year. This lack of movement doesn’t necessarily reflect a failure of companies to address the existing gender gap. Globally, the proportion of companies with at least one woman in senior management was 87% in 2020.  (Grant Thornton) The number of female CEOs and senior managers has risen by almost 20 percentage points over the last few years. For comparison, this figure stood at 68% in 2015 and 68% in 2017.  77% of women say the biggest obstacle to gender equity in the workplace is the lack of information on how to advance. (Working Mother Research Institute) Only 41% of female survey participants, as opposed to 64% of male respondents, said they have a network of coaches, mentors, and sponsors offering them career guidance. 37% of women versus 64% of men said that their companies provide information on career paths that lead to executive roles. (Working Mother Research Institute) Additionally, women CEO statistics indicate that 74% of female employees understand what the specific requirements are for advancing to the highest-paying roles in their companies even though they don’t receive this type of information directly.  60% of women believe they have the same opportunities to advance as anyone else at their workplace versus 74% of men.  (Working Mother Research Institute) Similarly, 65% of women express they are satisfied with the way their careers are progressing, and so do 78% of men.  Male vs female CEO stats reveal that 59% of male employees aspire to become chief executives versus 40% of women.  (Working Mother Research Institute) Of those women who aspire to become CEOs, 6% are first-level managers (as opposed to 13% of men) and 39% are executives. The same goes for 40% of men hoping to take on the role of chief executive officer.  Businesses with high representations of women in leadership roles had a 35% higher return on equity and 34% higher total shareholder return in comparison with male-dominated companies.  (Catalyst) Female vs male CEO statistics compiled by an NGO during a review of 353 Fortune 500 companies show that the differences were most apparent in facial services, consumer discretionary, and consumer staples industries.
By Milica Milenkovic · September 24,2021
Wage gaps still persist - find out who's affected the most and how widespread the problem actually is.
By Milica Milenkovic · September 24,2021
We’ve compiled a list of the most relevant SEO statistics for growing businesses.
By Ivana V. · June 09,2021

Leave your comment

Your email address will not be published.

There are no comments yet