Fraud Prevention Tip: Take All Shortages Seriously

In businesses with checkout counters and cash drawers, it can be very easy to just accept a standard over/under on drawer counts. A number of other places that involve balancing books will also allow this to be so. I’m the first to say that if you’re balancing out $100,000 in revenue and find that you’re $86 off, you might just want to let it go as the trouble of uncovering that $86 is not worth the $86.

But what if someone had stolen that $86? Then would you want to know and figure out what had happened? Arguably, that changes the value of the $86, since this is unlikely to be a one time thing, but a recurring and growing “expense.”

So let’s say that you have a drawer that’s off by $14 one day. No big deal – that can happen, especially at a place that does enough business in cash on each drawer.

But let’s say that happens at a big department store like a Macy’s 5 days in a row. That cashier is going to get fired for one of two reasons. Either a. he’s an idiot or b. he’s stealing.

But let’s not forget to consider hidden option c. someone else is stealing from him because he’s an idiot.

Many employees know that a drawer can be off $20 a day without raising a lot of suspicion, and so they use other people’s cash drawers when their friends come in to the store and give them $10 too much change. By rotating whose drawers they’re doing this from, it makes it very hard to catch them. Watch for patterns and consistencies, like who’s regularly working on days that there are higher than usual collective shortages, even if those shortages don’t appear on their drawers.

Don’t jump to conclusions. Just be vigilant and chart the specifics of any inadequate drawer counts.

Many companies grow lax because everything’s been fine with their counts, but don’t make the mistake of ignoring the systems you have in place. You put them there for a reason.

On some level, you’ll have to make a judgment call on this one depending on the percentage under and who has his or her hands in your cash and your books. This tip isn’t as stark-raving obvious as don’t rehire people who steal from you, but I do want you to take all shortages seriously all the same.

What shortages are considered acceptable at your business? How frequently does that happen and what do you do about it?

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