Recently, I was visiting with a potential client who had been the victim of fraud. Talking with him brought back unpleasant memories of the first time I discovered that one of my client’s employees had committed fraud against the company. Despite the fact that it happened a long time ago, all of the emotions associated with the violation came flooding back.
Dealing with Employee Fraud
The first, and perhaps strongest, emotion is betrayal. Anyone who has been a victim of fraud feels violated. It’s not unlike finding out that your spouse or significant other has had a relationship with another person. Most likely, the violator’s motive wasn’t personal, but it’s difficult not to take such treachery personally.
The next emotion I remember feeling was shock. How could this have happened? How could we have been so blind? It’s hard to believe that this person you trusted could steal from you without you knowing it. You feel duped and, as a result, may question your ability to judge a person’s character.
Once the hurt feelings and shock have passed, you will be angry. You may seek retribution. Unfortunately, it is often difficult to get your money back and district attorneys are reluctant to prosecute such cases unless there are large sums involved. Even if they go forward with prosecution or seek compensation, any recovery is often less than the amount stolen.
Despite this fact, it’s important to pursue the matter regardless of the sum. It’s not just about you getting your money back. It’s also about ensuring that this person doesn’t have the opportunity to violate someone else in the future. Often, this is not the first time the person has committed fraud. Even if you recover less than your losses, the paper trail created by the prosecution will be a red flag to anyone who runs a criminal background check on the individual in the future.
Eventually, most people move on past the emotions and learn to trust again. Most likely, they won’t trust to the same extent, though. The painful lesson learned is trust, but verify.
One of the positive outcomes of such an experience is tightened internal controls. Because of this, the company can come out stronger in the end for having survived the theft.