Professionals in a variety of fields have access to company resources that they could potentially misappropriate. For example, anyone who has access to petty cash or a company checkbook could potentially embezzle, taking funds directly from the company for personal enrichment.
People often think of embezzlement as a very straightforward scheme in which someone writes themselves checks or takes cash from their employer. Those are certainly common scenarios in which companies lose money due to employee misconduct. However, embezzlement applies to a wide assortment of behaviors that even successful professionals might engage in without realizing the risk that they’re taking.
Misusing company expense or reimbursement systems
Some businesses provide certain workers with a credit card or debit card for business expenses. People may feel tempted to put gas in their own vehicle or pay for a dinner out with a friend that they then write off as a business dinner. What starts as one or two small transactions may add up to thousands of dollars of personal spending using company resources. Submitting requests for reimbursement for expenses can also lead to similar issues.
Taking physical assets
Perhaps the company announced an upgrade to the computers used within the office. After their installation, someone might take their old computer home with them, seeing no issue with doing so. However, the business may have intended to resell those older models as a means to recover some of the expense of the upgrade. Office supplies, furniture and other equipment, as well as merchandise scheduled for destruction, could all be physical assets that people take from a business without realizing that doing so could constitute embezzlement.
Inflating or exaggerating invoices
Someone who provides bills or invoices to clients and customers is in a position to misrepresent what someone owes. They could then intercept some of the excess funds for personal use. This may seem like a harmless act because it doesn’t deprive the company of what it should receive. However, it can lead to customer dissatisfaction due to the increased price. It might also slowly develop into a scenario in which that individual starts taking more from client invoices over the years.
When businesses uncover what seems like embezzlement, they are often quick to point the finger at a worker. Employees could face prosecution and financial responsibility for the value of the misappropriated resources if they plead guilty. Fighting embezzlement charges often starts with an analysis of the evidence that has been gathered to explore whether there’s a reasonable explanation for the situation in question.