Sunday, January 20, 2013

Petty Thefts: It's not that important. At first.

When trying to reconcile accounts, there are accountants who try to balance to the penny which is seen as odd by other staff members. The idea of having to search for every last cent is perceived inefficient. A better approach is to value that mismatched item as a proportion to the overall balance. No real benchmark is used, but anything in the ten percent range is usually shrugged off as an unreconciled item or an immaterial figure. Additional amounts is measured at the discretion of managers or account holders.

The problem with the latter approach is that it overlooks the numerous petty thefts that occur at businesses every year. The stats are not before me right now, but these crimes are disregarded because they include manipulation of small amounts of cash and can cost companies millions in lost revenues.

Large amounts of missing cash raise red flags with managers. They're usually easier to spot and uncover if it's a single hit. So, it's rare that you find an average employee engaging in hefty theft schemes.

But when an employee who starts stealing from a company wants to go undetected, small amounts of petty cash or invoices in small denominations are created. If a mismatch is found when balancing the account, there is no cause for alarm. What's a few missing dollars in an account that carries thousands of transactions? So, employees begin setting these small dollar figures aside and after some time, have accumulated thousands of dollars in stolen assets.

Which is why it's not a good idea to excuse immaterial amounts. While it's impossible to uncover every small transaction, simply blowing off one with an excuse can be extremely costly. Due diligence and reasoning should be used when these missing amounts show up. It can be a key indicator to a grand theft scheme.

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