A national survey last year showed that companies lost $18.7 billion in the 12 months ending in June because of worker theft – the largest single cause of retail “shrinkage,” the Kansas City Star reports. A 2008 survey found that employees stole far more than shoplifters and that among 22 large retailers, one in 30 employees was caught stealing. “It happens from the top down to the bottom up,” said Terrence Shulman, an expert.
Experts say that with hard times, more employees are stealing, but many have always done it anyway. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has long said that 75 percent of employees steal from their employers at least once. They start small, get bolder and often get caught, said Casey Chroust of the Retail Industry Leaders Association. Allan Bachman, the education manager for the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, last week called the situation “almost a perfect storm” as companies that are trying to weather the recession eliminate protective measures. Two years ago, the association estimated that American businesses lost 7 percent of annual revenue to fraud, but the group now suspects that figure has grown. “There is a possibility that schemes are being created right now that won't be discovered for years,” Bachman said.