Detecting & Deterring Misappropriation

Asset Misappropriation - Complete Controller

Employee theft of inventory and supplies and the unauthorized use of equipment, although not as recurrent as cash theft, can do major damage to small businesses. In some cases, a non-employee conspirator may be involved, including a dishonest vendor. Although cash is the ideal target for employee theft, supplies, inventory, and equipment are alluring as well. These frauds range from a box of paper clips to the unauthorized use of expensive furniture or equipment. The following are common types of employee misconduct relating to non-cash properties:

Unauthorized Use of Equipment

Employee unauthorized use of equipment can be a major loss for small businesses. Cubicle to Cloud virtual business

The Fraud: How about that great snowblower the company bought to clear sidewalks and the parking lot for customers? Employee Joe David decided it was better to “borrow” the company’s new tool to do his driveway than to buy or rent one of his own. While doing his driveway, his neighbors wanted to hire him to do theirs as well. Why not? Joe, the potential entrepreneur, ran the snowblower all weekend, using up all the fuel and eventually breaking the machine. There was no way the boss could clear the sidewalk and parking lot for his business Monday morning as he couldn’t get that new snowblower started.

The Flaw: Trusting employees. Leaving keys or easy access to valuable equipment. No formal policy stated or enforced.

The Fix: Set strict policies and limits for employees and enforce them. Physically secure valuable equipment. Employees may not only misuse your business equipment but may make your assets prudently “disappear.” Download A Free Financial Toolkit

Inventory Shrinkage Can Be Reduced

Dealing with employee theft of inventory, supplies, and equipment can be an on-going struggle, depending on the type of workforce and turnover present in your organization.

The Fraud: Inventory can shrink due to plain old robbery, phony receiving reports, and unauthorized write-offs of old accounts receivable.

The Flaw: Depending on the industry you’re in, there is guaranteed to be some natural shrinkage in inventories over time due to minor errors of one sort or another. But large discrepancies are almost always due to fraud. Even during a physical count, a fraudster employee can use empty boxes, etc., to fool an auditor into thinking there are more units on the shelf than there are.

The Fix: As with other types of employee fraud, a formal policy of segregation of duties, strict supervision, voucher accounting, and all relevant internal controls must exist and be enforced at all times.

Physical counts should be recurrent and detailed, sometimes on a surprise basis. Nothing should be taken for granted. Reconciling bookkeeping records with sales invoices periodically is a good way to test the records. Frequent assessment of the perpetual inventory records is a must. Examination of financial statements to mine for margins, turnover rates, increases in costs of goods sold, and criminal receivables should be done monthly. Another type of employee fraud is committed to fake sales or purchases and often requires the support of an outside accomplice. CorpNet. Start A New Business Now

Protect Against Fake Sales and/or Purchases

Fake sales made by impostor employees may go to a phony customer or a real one who is an accomplice.

The Fraud: The property could be “sold” to a fake company with a phony purchase order and invoice and shipped right out of the warehouse to a storage facility that the fraudster employee rented to receive them. The goods can later be sold for cash, the invoice voided, and the inventory record doctored. Or, perhaps an employee is in a unique position to manipulate purchasing and receiving systems.

The Flaw: As is commonly the case when it comes to fraud, the reason these frauds happen is attributable to the lack of separation of duties, lack of supervision, and lack of overall internal controls.

The Fix: It bears reiterating that a formal policy of separation of duties, strict supervision, voucher accounting, and all relevant internal controls must exist and be enforced at all times.


Unfortunately, fraud is inevitable in many organizations. Regardless of the size of the fraud allegation or the individual involved, the organization should consider having a documented policy of how fraud allegations will be investigated and resolved. 

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