Posts

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.

Fake IDs are everywhere

Okay, so you’re 18 or 19 and in college, and are stressed because you have to be 21 in order to gain entry to a night club or bar where you’d like to drink up a storm and mingle with a “more mature” crowd. Or really, you just want to meet someone.

8DLife sure is tough, isn’t it? You have to wait till you’re 21, but by then…you may be graduated from college (and a lot more mature, and thus, getting plastered would no longer have appeal). What a bummer, dude! The time to have fun is when you’re young and irresponsible!

Many U.S. college kids circumvent this age restriction with the fake ID. And over the years, it’s gotten easier to get the fake ID, thanks to the Internet. In fact, the Internet is replete with sellers of fake IDs to anonymous customers.

An article at businessinsider.com describes how the “subreddit” vendor site even provides threads where visitors could get information on how to use this site, which is encrypted (not surprising).

Nevertheless, college kids can still get fake IDs the old-fashioned way: by asking around. It won’t be long before they have contact information and simple instructions regarding payment and sending the supplier a photo.

Beware of the Consequences of Getting Caught with a Fake ID

  • Come on, is it really worth it? Do you know any grad students who go through their days haunted with agony because they never had a fake ID as undergrads?
  • Depending on what state you’re residing in if you get busted, you can get put in jail.
  • Some states yield only the misdemeanor charge, while other states will get you a felony charge.
  • Using an older person’s ID (e.g., Big Sis who looks like you) will not only mean trouble for you, but for Big Sis, too.
  • Don’t think for a second that getting caught means a little time facing a crabby judge and then going home like nothing ever happened.
  • Sending all your data to a criminal who makes fake IDs can facilitate your own identity stolen. There is no honor among thieves.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing identity theft prevention.

Everything you need to know about a Credit Freeze

A credit freeze locks down your credit report so lenders can’t see your scores, making your credit/SSN useless to them because they don’t know their risk level.

1SIf thieves get ahold of your ID, they can’t get credit in your name as long as your credit is frozen. Freezing your credit will seal your credit reports. You’ll need a PIN to access your credit to allow valid services to check your credit when needed. Freezing won’t affect existing credit lines and are free to victims of ID theft. Since 2008, the three big credit bureaus have allowed non-victims to freeze their credit for a small charge.

When is a credit freeze a good idea?

For anyone 18 and over who has a credit report and those under 18 whose identity is stolen and for whom a report is then generated by default.

What should I consider before ordering a credit freeze?

Nothing. Just do it. Credit should be frozen across the board, but banks/retailers/lenders have spent millions lobbying to prevent that, as it would eliminate instant credit, and these institutions say that it would “gum up” the system of lending.

What are the costs?

Free to $15.00 per credit bureau for life, depending on the deal your state attorney general made with the bureau back in 2008. Then free to $5.00 to thaw it each time you apply for new lines of credit.

Inconvenience: It requires planning large financial decisions and being responsible. So horrible. Otherwise it takes five minutes per bureau to temporarily thaw your credit prior to financing a new line of credit at an auto dealer, mobile phone provider, etc.

Can a credit freeze hurt your credit score?

NO.

How does a credit freeze differ from a fraud alert?

Fraud alerts are only 90 days, and they don’t freeze your credit; they only alert a lender that you may have had your identity stolen, but don’t stop the lender from issuing credit in any way.

Fraud alerts at best are “notifications” that something may have gone wrong with your identity, but only suggest the lender takes additional steps to contact you before establishing credit in your name. It’s a false sense of security.

Where to Freeze:

Equifax

https://www.freeze.equifax.com/Freeze/jsp/SFF_PersonalIDInfo.jsp

Experian

https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html

Transunion

http://www.transunion.com/personal-credit/credit-disputes/credit-freezes.page

Just do it. NOW.

Robert Siciliano is an identity theft expert to BestIDTheftCompanys.com discussing  identity theft prevention. For Roberts FREE ebook text- SECURE Your@emailaddress -to 411247. Disclosures.

ID Theft, Medicare Fraud Prevention in People Over 45

My job as a security analyst is to educate people on the prevalence of ID theft, and this especially includes those over 45, and I also must point out that scams involving Medicare are on the rise.

3DAccording to Reuters, Identity theft led the list of top consumer complaints once again in 2013, with U.S. consumers reporting that they lost over $1.6 billion to various types of fraud. Of the 2 million consumer complaints that the commission received last year, 290,056, or about 14 percent, were related to identity theft, the FTC said.

People over 45 attract identity thieves because often the 45-plus crowd is more trusting, and have more wealth and disposable income built up. They’re not too eager to report identity theft for fear their families will think they’ve lost control. Crooks know all this. Learn how people over 45 can protect against identity theft and Medicare scams.

Identity Theft Prevention for the 45-Plus Crowd

  • Know that those closest to you (family members, caregivers) can be a thief waiting for a prime opportunity. Be leery of anyone asking for even a small loan or giving a sob story.
  • ID information and other personal data and documents should be locked up in a safe.
  • Get a PO box for your mail—to receive and to take outgoing to.
  • Shred personal documents you no longer need.
  • Thieves like to rummage through trash for discarded direct mail and credit card offers. Call the FTC OPTOUT at 1-888-567-8688 to stop these offerings.
  • Memorize your SSN so you don’t have to bring it in public.
  • Thin out your wallet.
  • Cancel unused cards.
  • Never have any personal information printed on your checks except your PO box address. Have only your first and middle initial with your last name printed on checks.
  • Have your bank issue an ATM-only card rather than an ATM debit card.
  • Don’t wait till you’re a victim of crime to have a handy list of all your financially related contact information already composed.
  • Update your devices operating systems
  • Update your devices antivirus, antispyware, antiphishing and firewall.
  • Lock up your devices with a password.
  • Use string passwords including upper/lower case and numbers.
  • Use a passwords manager. Never use the same passwords twice.

Credit Card Scams

  • Don’t be phishing bait. An e-mail comes to you claiming you must make a payment and includes a link where to do this. These scam e-mails make gullible people think they’re from banks, retailers, even what seems like the IRS. The link to a phony website entices victims into typing in their bank account or credit card numbers: a done deal for the thieves.
  • Review bank and credit card statements promptly. Reporting something suspicious within two days means minimal liability with bank accounts. Wait too long and you may never recover your loss.
  • Never lose sight of your debit card. Always watch clerks swipe it. Don’t hand it to anyone else at the store.
  • Consider ditching the debit/credit card. Use an ATM card and a separate credit card rather than the combo.
  • Never give your card to anyone. This means a caregiver, nanny, dog sitter, relative—you never know what they may do.
  • Never give your card or account information to someone who phones you.
  • See more “credit card security tips HERE

Social Media Scams

  • Friend only those who you actually know, like and trust.
  • Remember the Internet is forever—Even if you have the highest privacy settings, it’s good practice to consider anything you do on the Internet as public knowledge, so be careful what you share online or via your mobile device.
  • Don’t reveal personal information—Seriously consider why it’s needed before you post your address, phone number, Social Security number, or other personal information online.
  • Put a PIN on it—Make sure you have your smartphone and tablet set to auto-lock after a certain time of unused and make sure it requires a PIN or passcode to unlock it. This is especially helpful to protect any information you do not want seen should your device be lost or stolen.
  • Manage your privacy settings—At most, only friends you know in real life should be able to see details of your profile.
  • Change your passwords frequently—In addition to choosing passwords that are difficult to guess (try to make them at least eight characters long and a combination of letters, numbers, and symbols), remember to regularly change your passwords.

Medicare Card Scams

  • The weak link in Medicare is that the SSN can be used as the identifying information on the insurance cards.
  • After the first visit to a doctor, copy your Medicare card, ink out every thing but the last four numbers of the SSN, then use the copy for subsequent visits.
  • A Medicare representative will never call you to verify information so that medical bills can be paid. A call like this is a scam.
  • If somebody other than your physician asks for Medicare information, call 1-800-MEDICARE to report this. Only when you’re in your doctor’s office should your doctor request such information. If in doubt, never give your Medicare number out.

If You Are a Victim

What should people over age 45 do if they suspect identity theft?

  • Call one of these three credit reporting agencies to put a fraud alert out on your credit report:
  • Experian: 888-397-3742; Equifax: 800-525-6285; TransUnion: 800-680-7289
  • Contact only one company because they’re legally required to contact the other two.
  • Contact local law enforcement, banks and credit card companies if you suspect ID theft.
  • Call the FTC ID theft hotline: 877-438-4338; or online at www.consumer.gov/idtheft

Identity theft protection:

  • Does Identity Theft Protection Really Work? YES.
  • How effective are their scanning/monitoring methods? It all depends on the service. Check out BestIDTheftCompanys.com ratings.
  • Can they truly protect consumers? The answers may vary. Identity theft protection is designed to protect you from new lines of credit being opened in your name—and along with the recovery/restoration component; it’s designed to clean up the mess.

Read our blog post on “Identity theft protection HERE