3 Business Vulnerabilities Thieves Target and How to Protect Them

The odds are that your company will be targeted by thieves, if it hasn’t already. Nearly one in ten small businesses were victims of burglary or theft in 2016. Furthermore, companies of all sizes are potential victims of embezzlement, a Hiscox study found, with 55 percent of embezzlement cases hitting companies with fewer than 100 employees. Meanwhile cyber thieves are also ramping up their attacks on businesses, with ransom ware attacks on companies increasing 50 percent globally in 2016.

While all companies are at risk of theft, some are more tempting targets for thieves than others. Here’s a look at three types of vulnerabilities characteristic of three different industries that illustrate potential problems all businesses should monitor, along with some tips on how to address these issues.

Retail Inventory Theft

The retail industry is one of the hardest-hit by theft. Shoplifting accounted for the largest share of this loss, including increased theft from organized crime rings. The rise of organized crime retail theft has pushed employee theft into second place among causes of retail theft. Thieves work in teams with cell phones and hand signals, with one thief distracting store security and obstructing their vision while another stuffs items into bags. Designer clothes and handbags are the top targets, followed by infant formulas and laundry detergent, with many other items including medicine, razors, and liquor on thieves’ radars.

Cooperation between retailers, store security, law enforcement and prosecutors is needed to combat this rising threat, experts say. Police have had success at breaking up organized theft rings by reviewing theft reports and identifying patterns. One step stores can take to help fight both organized crime theft and employee theft is installing surveillance cameras. Cameras can both serve as a deterrent and can capture identifying details of thieves for arrest and prosecution. Place cameras near high-risk items and at other strategic locations. Tracking inventory regularly can also help you identify internal theft patterns.

Construction Equipment Theft

Construction is another industry that has been targeted by thieves. Wheeled and tracked loaders, towables, skid steer loaders, excavators and utility task vehicles are the most popular targets. Valuable building materials such as copper wiring are also sought. Crime rings concentrate on certain states with border access and active ports, with California, Texas and Florida currently at the top of the list.

To prevent construction theft, try taking a number of preventive measures. Create inventory records so you can document any losses and give authorities a chance to recover stolen property. Lock up keys off-site, lock tires, circle larger equipment around smaller equipment, chain pieces together, and don’t leave equipment in trailers so that it can be easily hauled off. Invest in lighting, fencing and construction security cameras to deter thieves. Hire security to watch sites over long weekends and holidays. Vet employees and drivers to prevent internal theft.

Financial Services Internal Theft

When it comes to employee theft, no industry is targeted more than the financial industry. Hiscox’s research shows that the financial services sector had the most embezzlement cases for the third year in a row in 2016, accounting for 17.8 percent of cases, including the highest single loss at $54 million and the highest total loss at $120 million. Stealing funds by transfer, check fraud, false vendor invoicing and credit card fraud are the most popular forms of embezzlement.

To prevent embezzlement, Hiscox recommends instituting a system of checks and balances, including all statements and cashed checks, to ensure that more than one person reviews each transaction. Have corporate statements delivered to an owner or trusted executive at their home address. Conduct complete background checks for all employees, especially those in the most sensitive positions. If someone is reported as engaged in suspicious activity, form a team to monitor them, collect evidence and contain damage.

The retail, construction and financial services industries illustrate three of the common strategies thieves use to target businesses by respectively stealing inventory during business hours, stealing equipment outside business hours and stealing company funds from within. Studying the methods these industries use to protect themselves can help companies in all industries develop security strategies to deter theft and catch thieves.

About Mohit Tater

Mohit is the co-founder and editor of Entrepreneurship Life, a place where entrepreneurs, start-ups, and business owners can find wide ranging information, advice, resources, and tools for starting, running, and growing their businesses.

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