Tips for Preventing Embezzlement and Employee Theft

If you are a business owner, you might be concerned about employee theft. If you aren’t concerned, perhaps you should be.

There are a number of ways that an employee can steal:

  • Embezzlement money, inventory or materials
  • Skimming – Diverting funds
  • Stealing business opportunities, data or trade secrets
  • Fraudulent disbursements like check tampering or billing schemes
  • Larceny – absolute theft

It might surprise you to find out that employees who steal are not usually new employees. Instead, they are those who have worked for a business for a number of years. (Three years is the average.) So, what can you do to protect your company from employee theft? Here are some ideas:

Watch Your Staff

You should be aware of the signs of theft. These include:

  • A sudden devotion to their work and/or the company
  • Working late
  • Living above their salary
  • Drug or alcohol abuse
  • Evidence of gambling, bad check writing, or persistently asking to borrow money
  • A second job with materials available at your business
  • Strong objections to changes in inventory, financial, or supply procedures

Small businesses should always do background checks on any potential hire. Checking references is one thing, but to really understand who you are hiring, a full background check is best.

Supervise Employee Behavior

Research shows that employees are more likely to commit acts of fraud and theft when they don’t have a lot of supervision. You don’t have to supervise them constantly, but you should check on them often. It also is a good idea to have more than one person in charge of company finances.

Control All Business Receipts

Use pre-numbered sales slips and audit them frequently. This is especially the case with cash. You should not rely on a sales clerk to count and audit these receipts. Have another person do it.

Use Random Auditing

Start doing unannounced audits internally, and hire an outside company to do a yearly audit.

Use Purchase Orders

You should also use purchase orders and make sure that these are not handled by the same people over and over. It’s best to use pre-numbered purchase orders, and then always verify any orders coming in.

Keep Track of Business Checks

Use checks that are pre-numbered and make sure the amounts and recipient name is typed or in permanent ink. It’s best to produce checks from software, such as QuickBooks. If you have bank checks, make sure they are locked up.

Install Security Software on Computers

Start using security software on your computers that monitors employee activity, and restrict access to company records. You should also frequently change passwords and ensure that all of your security features are working.

Be Responsible with Accounts Receivable

Ensure that you are recording all of your incoming payments. Make sure incoming checks are marked as “deposit only.” Hire a forensics accountant at least bi-annually. Having a professional come in looking for discrepancies, or “cooked books” is worth every penny.

Use Security Systems with Inventory Management

Keep shipping and receiving as separate functions. Consider using security devices to monitor all inventory and merchandise that is coming in.

Install Security Cameras

Frankly, “trust” is overrated. It’s natural and normal to trust by default. As an “interdependent” species, humans can’t function without inherently trusting one another. But while most people can be trusted, the few that can’t need security cameras pointed at them all day.

Help Employees Report Theft by Their Co-Workers

You should make it as easy as possible for your staff to report theft or fraud by their co-workers. You want to make sure that you are doing this discretely, and you want to make sure that you don’t make it look like you don’t trust your staff.

What to Do if You Suspect Theft

If you have an employee who you think is stealing form you, here’s what you should do:

  • Use extreme caution when conducting your investigations and when making an accusation. If this turns out to be false, it could mean a lawsuit for you.
  • If you have a suspicion, investigate. If you can correctly identify the employee who is responsible, you should terminate their position immediately, revoke all network and building access and then consider contacting the authorities.
  • If theft is a complex or a large issue involving more than one employee, you should talk to a legal professional. They can help find experts who can help.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Understanding and Stopping Criminal Identity Theft

The definition of criminal identity theft is a crime where the criminal impersonates the victim in order to protect their innocence. This can lead to victims getting fines or even getting arrested and charged for crimes they did not commit.

How Does This Happen?

There are a number of ways that a criminal can pull this off, and it generally occurs when the thief steals someone’s identity. This is true and pure identity theft, often involving a drivers license with the thieves picture and the victims information. Once they have that, they are pretty much free to commit crimes in their victim’s name.

Stopping Criminal Identity Thieves

If you think that you are a victim of this crime, you should first get in touch with the police department where the charges are coming from. You should offer proof of your identity, and then fill out an impersonation report. The police will often take a photo, get your fingerprints, and run your ID info through their database. When they prove your innocence, warrants will be released. If you feel like this is a complicated situation, however, it is in your best interest to get a lawyer.

Did Someone Use Your Driver’s License?

If someone has stolen or used your driver’s license, take the following steps:

  1. Get your driver’s license record. You can get this from the DMV.
  2. Identify any inaccurate information from the report.
  3. Report any discrepancies.
  4. Discuss facial recognition with the DMV and if others photos are tied with your information.
  5. Clear all of the discrepancies. The DMV will do this for you after an investigation.

Signs That You Might be a Victim of Criminal Identity Theft

Sometimes you might not realize that you are a victim of criminal identity theft, but here are some signs:

  • Your Social Security Statement may have errors.
  • There will most likely be errors on background checks.
  • You might get fired and told your criminal record is the reason.
  • You might not get a job or apartment due to your false criminal record.

Preventing Criminal Identity Theft

There are some things you can do to make the chances lower that you will become a victim of criminal identity theft:

  • Keep your Social Security number and driver’s license safe and hidden when possible.
  • If you have to get a new credit card and/or driver’s license, make sure the numbers are different. You don’t just want the same number as the thief can still use it.
  • Get a credit freeze and consider identity theft protection.
  • Frankly, be as digitally secure as possible and manage paper records the best you can. But this is a hard crime to stop on your own.
  • Criminal identity theft happens when the victim has done nothing at all to secure their identity

Should You Be Worried About Criminal Identity Theft?

All of this sounds pretty scary, but there is only a very small chance that you would be held liable for any of these crimes. The bigger issue is that someone could victimize you for years, and you would never realize it. It could become a big headache, and it could also create a domino effect that could ultimately tarnish your good name. Preventing identity theft of all kinds is a start, and as long as you know how to fix it if it happens, you should be okay in the end. Don’t worry about it, but do something about it.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Is Your Small Business Staff Trained in Security Awareness?

The Ponemon Institute released a shocking statistic: about 80% of all corporate data leaks is due to human error. In other words, it only takes a single staff member to cause a huge issue. Here’s a scenario: Let’s say that you have an employee, Betty. Betty is lovely. We love Betty. But when Betty is checking her personal email during her lunch break and sees she has an offer that promises a 10-pound weight loss in only a week, she clicks the link. She wants to learn more about it, so she clicks the link in the email. What she doesn’t realize is that by clicking that link, she just installed a virus onto the computer. In addition, the virus now has access to your company’s network.

This was a very simple act, one that most of us do every day. However, this is why it is so important that your staff is up to date on security awareness. How can you do this? Here are some tips:

  • Present your staff with information about being aware of security, and then come up with a set up where you send them a link they want to click on. This is a process known as “phishing simulation.” If your staff members click on the links, and they probably will, it will take them to a safe page. However, on the page is a message telling them that they fell for a scam, and though they are safe this time, there could be great repercussions.
  • The staff members who click the link should be tested again. This way, you will know if the message got through.
  • Make sure when you give these tests that it isn’t predictable. Send the emails at different times of day and make sure they look different and have a different message. For instance, don’t send the “lose 10 pounds” email twice.
  • Think about hiring someone, a stranger, who will try to get your staff to give them sensitive information about your company over the phone, through email, or even in person. This is a valuable test, as it helps you to determine who the “weak links” are in your company.
  • Give your staff quizzes throughout the year to see who is paying attention to security.
  • You should focus on education, not discipline, when you are doing this. Don’t make them feel bad or punish them. Instead, make sure they know what they did wrong and work on not doing it again.
  • Ensure that your team knows that a data breach can also result in financial, legal, and criminal problems.
  • Schedule checks of workstations to see if any employee is doing something that might compromise your company’s sensitive data. This includes leaving information on a screen and walking away.
  • Explain the importance of security to your staff, and encourage them to report any activity that seems suspicious.
  • After training and testing your staff, make a list of all concepts that you want them to understand. Look at this list often, and then evaluate it time and time again to see if anything needs changed.
  • Don’t forget company officers. When company officers are omitted from this kind of training it poorly reflects on the organization. Some security personnel are afraid to put their Executives on the spot. That is a huge mistake. Security starts from the top.

Remember, there is nothing wrong with sharing tips with your staff. Post them around the office and keep reminding them to stay vigilant. This helps the information to remain fresh in their minds, and helps you to recognize those who are taking security, seriously.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Storing Water for Survival

Do you think you know all there is to know about water storage? Most people think they have a good grasp on it, but they are in for a bit surprise. Below, there is a lot of information about storing water that might contradict what you think you know:

Storing Barrels – You can keep storage barrels on a basement or cellar cement floor. Cement that remains cool doesn’t transfer any toxins into the water. However, if the cement is warm, such as garage cement that might get heat from the driveway, you must store the barrels on floorboards. Also, store some of your water in bottles that are portable so they are easy to handle.

Reusing Your Bottles – You can refill old soda and juice bottles with water as long as there is a PET or PETE rating on the plastic. Do not use old milk jugs, however. If you are worried about leaching chemicals, you can treat the water…just make sure to do it when you consume it, not when storing it.

A Full Boil – You don’t have to boil your water fully to kill all of the bacteria in it. Instead, heat it to 160 degrees F for 30 minutes, or heat it to 185 degrees F for three minutes. This burns less fuel, too.

Drink Pool Water – Pool water is okay to drink as long as it is under 4 PPM of chlorine.

River Water – You can also drink river water, but treat it with iodine tablets, first. Keep in mind, in a survival situation, the river is where everyone will go.

Store Enough – Ideally, you should store more than a month’s worth of water. A huge disaster could mean many months, or even years, of water shortage.

Daily Amount – Each person requires about a gallon a day. This includes for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

Water vs. Food – Though food has calories that your body needs, water is much more important. You can go for many days, or even weeks without eating. However, you can onlyhandle a couple of days without water.

Taste – The water that you store might taste bad because it has been closed off from oxygen. Pour it between two glasses, back and forth, to get more oxygen into it.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Top 10 Signs of a Malware Infection on Your Computer

Not all viruses that find their way onto your computer dramatically crash your machine. Instead, there are viruses that can run in the background without you even realizing it. As they creep around, they make messes, steal, and much worse.

Malware today spies on your every move. It sees the websites you visit, and the usernames and passwords you type in. If you login to online banking, a criminal can watch what you do and after you log off and go to bed, he can log right back and start transferring money out of your account.

Here are some signs that your device might already be infected with malware:

  1. Programs shut down or start up automatically
  2. Windows suddenly shuts down without prompting
  3. Programs won’t start when you want them to
  4. The hard drive is constantly working
  5. Your machine is working slower than usual
  6. Messages appear spontaneously
  7. Instead of flickering, your external modem light is constantly lit
  8. Your mouse pointer moves by itself
  9. Applications are running that are unfamiliar
  10. Your identity gets stolen

If you notice any of these, first, don’t panic. It’s not 100% that you have a virus. However, you should check things out. Make sure your antivirus program is scanning your computer regularly and set to automatically download software updates. This is one of the best lines of defense you have against malware.

Though we won’t ever eliminate malware, as it is always being created and evolving, by using antivirus software and other layers of protection, you can be one step ahead. Here are some tips:

  • Run an automatic antivirus scan of your computer every day. You can choose the quick scan option for this. However, each week, run a deep scan of your system. You can run them manually, or you can schedule them.
  • Even if you have purchased the best antivirus software on the market, if you aren’t updating it, you are not protected.
  • Don’t click on any attachment in an email, even if you think you know who it is from. Instead, before you open it, confirm that the application was sent by who you think sent it, and scan it with your antivirus program.
  • Do not click on any link seen in an email, unless it is from someone who often sends them. Even then, be on alert as hackers are quite skilled at making fake emails look remarkably real. If you question it, make sure to open a new email and ask the person. Don’t just reply to the one you are questioning. Also, never click on any link that is supposedly from your bank, the IRS, a retailer, etc. These are often fake.
  • If your bank sends e-statements, ignore the links and login directly to the banks website using either a password manager or your bookmarks.
  • Set your email software to “display text only.” This way, you are alerted before graphics or links load.

When a device ends up being infected, it’s either because of hardware or software vulnerabilities.  And while there are virus removal tools to clean up any infections, there still may be breadcrumbs of infection that can creep back in. It’s generally a good idea to reinstall the devices operating system to completely clear out the infection and remove any residual malware .

As an added bonus, a reinstall will remove bloatware and speed up your devices too.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

The Natural Predatory Nature of Humans

A study published in Nature shows us that both evolution and genetics have made a big impact on the behavior of humans…including in the case of murder. However, as we have become more civilized, these instincts have been muted.

Scientists have looked at the rate of homicide in more than 1,000 species, and they noticed something interesting: The rates of these lethal acts are similar, which means that evolution of each species can give us a good idea of how violent each species really is.

This study states that humans are part of a violent group of similar mammals. These mammals all evolved at the same time, together. Plus, all of these mammals have murderous and violent pasts. So, what does this mean for us? It means that we are violent today because our ancestors were violent.

When you look at all mammals, about three in 1,000 are murderers. However, when you specifically look at humans, the average over time is about 20 in 1,000. Furthermore, when you examine certain time periods, such as the medieval period, this rate rose to about 120 murderers in 1,000. These numbers have fortunately fallen, however, and today, it stands at about 13 murderers per 1,000 people.

So, we are killing each other much less frequently today than we used to 1,000 years ago. However, we are still not as peaceful as other mammals. For instance, killer whales, which we believe to be quite violent, have a murder rate of almost zero against their own species.

We are much more violent than whales, but when we compare our murder rates to those of cougars, baboons, or lemurs, we are less violent. All of these animals have a murder rate of about 100 per 1,000.

Since this research looked at violence by comparing species that are closely related, it is not surprising that these species are similarly violent. It is also interesting that the more closely related a species is, the more similar their instances of violence.

It’s quite difficult to actually calculate the rates of violence among our ancestors, but we are able to get a good idea thanks to archaeological evidence. It was found that by looking at these sites, that violence rates were lower among people who had some type of government or culture. This also suggests that murder rates among a species can be reversed. In fact, this evidence shows that it can decrease or increase based on ecological, cultural, or social factors. This evidence is similar to what was found in a study done at Harvard, which specifically looked at violent crimes including rape and murder.

When looking at these facts, we find that humans are territorial and social, but also naturally violent. As we have developed over time and found more civilized activities, our rates of violence have gotten lower. What’s even more interesting is that most mammals aren’t murderers towards their own species…but some, such as lions, wolves, and primates, which includes humans, engage in violent actions.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.

Get a Credit Freeze NOW Before it’s Too Late!

What is a credit freeze? It’s an action you take to lock down your credit report. A lender can’t see your score, which means your Social Security number and credit rating is useless to them. In other words, they can’t tell if you are risky or not.

When an identity thief can access your ID aka Social Security number, they can also create credit in your name. However, if your credit file is frozen, the bad guys can’t access it any longer. With a credit freeze, your credit file is inaccessible.

To get access to your frozen credit, when you need to new line of credit, you have to use a credit bureau issued  PIN to unlock or unfreeze it. It’s easy. Freezing a credit report doesn’t affect any existing lines of credit, and the process is free for those who are victims of identity theft. For almost a decade, the big three credit bureaus, Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax, allow non-victims to pay a small charge and also get their credit frozen.

When is it a Good Idea to Freeze Your Credit?

If you are a person who has had their identity stolen, you should freeze your credit. If you have a Social Security number you are a target. If you breathe you are a potential victim. Make your SSN useless to the thief by freezing your credit

What You Should Know Before Freezing Your Credit

Before you freeze your credit, there isn’t much to know. You should simply do it. Your credit should always be frozen from all transactions, and retailers, banks, and lenders have spent many millions trying to stop it. Why? Because this stops them from instantly approving a credit line. They are not concerned about your identity, only their bottom line.

What does it Cost to Freeze your Credit?

The fee for freezing your credit varies based on the credit bureau. It might be free or there might be a small fee. The state Attorney General determines the rate. You must pay a $5.00 fee to lift the freeze.

Is Freezing Your Credit Inconvenient?

Freezing your credit is not an inconvenience. It only takes a couple of minutes to freeze and unfreeze your credit file. Of course, you need to unfreeze before getting approved for credit. That simply means prior to initiating an application for credit, you need to spend 5 minutes administrating the thaw. This boils down to a simple change in the current process which makes you more secure. Think of a freeze as putting on your seatbelt. It’s just something you have to do.

Does a Credit Freeze Harm Your Credit?

Nope. It doesn’t affect your credit score at all. And exiting creditors can still do “soft” checks on your credit.

Doesn’t a Fraud Alert Do the Same Thing?

A fraud alert only lasts for 90 days, and the bad guys can still access your credit file and apply for new credit. This informs a creditor that you might have had your ID stolen, but they can still, and do, issue credit. At their best, fraud alerts simply notify lenders that something might be going on with your identity. It’s really just a false sense of security.

Where You Can Go to Freeze Your Credit:

To freeze your credit with Equifax, click here.

To freeze your credit with Experian, click here.

To freeze your credit with Trans Union, click here.

Robert Siciliano personal security and identity theft expert and speaker is the author of 99 Things You Wish You Knew Before Your Identity Was Stolen. See him knock’em dead in this identity theft prevention video.