Curtailing Theft

Recommendations for cost-efficient, effective loss prevention


Theft is as much of a problem at vehicle maintenance and repair facilities as it is with any other organization, maybe even more so. Loss occurs not only from thieves, but from stealing by "customers" and outsiders, including vendors and suppliers, who occasionally "walk away" with the company's valuable assets, such as tools, parts inventory and equipment. And then there's stealing by an organization's own employees - a grim reality that many companies find difficult to face.

They key to reducing loss, say loss prevention experts, is to establish effective theft prevention strategies. Loss prevention is not necessarily about high-tech security, they point out, it is about making it difficult for individuals to steal. But how can you protect your business without breaking the bank? By realizing that theft and fraud is mainly due to lax hiring, misplaced trust, inattentive management and poor internal controls.

There are a great many ways an organization can decrease its susceptibility to theft and fraud by maximizing existing resources, says Michelle McHale, practice leader for the Investigative Services practice at Plante & Moran. A key approach is to create a positive environment.

Plante & Moran is one of the nation's largest certified public accounting and business advisory firms. It provides clients with tax, audit, risk management, financial, technology, business consulting and wealth management services.

"Obviously, a working environment that gives the impression that management doesn't care about its employees, or demonstrates that managers are disciplined differently than lower ranking employees, provides a motive and rationalization to commit fraud," McHale points out. "Creating an environment where honestly is practiced and employees are encouraged reaps great rewards for an organization committed to deterring fraud and theft."

HIRING METHODS

Another foundation to loss prevention is having good employees, says John Alden of GMAC's Loss Prevention department. "A comprehensive hiring approach developed with an attorney familiar with your state's labor laws can prevent the hiring of problem employees, poor performers and security risks."

GMAC is a global financial services company, initially formed to provide automotive finance products and services to General Motors dealers and clients. It has expanded its business to include mortgage operations, insurance, commercial finance and online banking.

"A written application, reference checks, credit report, drug screen, criminal background check, motor vehicle record check, an interview by the hiring manager, multiple interviews by other managers and an administrative control are the tools of the hiring process," Alden says.

McHale suggest having an outside service perform background checks on potential job candidates, as these companies are experienced in this type of work. She also advises checking educational and training degrees "to ensure that the person showing up for work is the same person who looked so good on paper."

While acknowledging that screening individuals is important, Kevin Lynch, CEO of P&L Solutions, stresses the importance of understanding the traits of a dishonest employee. "Dishonest employees may not always have a history that shows they are dishonest," he says, "but they cannot cover up the traits that indicate they are likely to be dishonest."

P&L Solutions specializes in proactive loss prevention programs to reduce shrinkage, minimize liability, improve competitiveness and increase profits and shareholder value.

WRITTEN POLICIES

Along with having good hiring practices, Lynch, McHale and Alden concur that written security policies and programs are essential in the fight against loss and fraud. These are needed for a multitude of reasons, observes Alden of GMAC. "They serve as a permanent record documenting communication on dishonesty regarding the shop's vision, expectations and day-to-day operation. This can be critical in establishing competitive image and prevents any misunderstanding."

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