Can you spot the potential embezzler in your company?

Which of your employees is most likely to steal the big bucks from your company? Here’s where the Marquet Report on Embezzlement is especially useful as a profiling tool. (Embezzlement is stealing or misappropriating funds placed in your trust or belonging to your employer). Granted, the Marquet study is already a few years old, but its data is still comparable with more recent studies and anecdotal reports. In this study of 415 cases of embezzlement of over $100,000, here are some of the key findings:

  • Women are more likely to embezzle large sums than men. But men embezzle more often than women. So fraud isn’t only a man’s game.
  • Perpetrators are very likely to hold financial positions in the company they steal from. (No surprise there…)
  • A big-money embezzler usually starts their scheme in their early 40’s. On average, this lasts 4 1/2 years.
  • On average, each company in the Marquet study lost just over $1m.
  • 87% of incidents involved fraudsters acting on their own.
  • Consistent with other studies, only 5% of the perpetrators had a previous criminal record. This is a biggie to remember. If you think fraud detection means looking for the bad guys (and bad women), you’ll miss fraud risk over and over. In many cases, the behavioural and psychological risk factors are totally undetectable.

So who is the potential perpetrator in your company? The Marquet Report cannot tell you that. What it does tell you, though, is this: often it’s the people in positions of trust, especially those already dealing with your money, who turn out to to be the big-money embezzlers. Does that mean that we “should NOT trust the ones we trust”? Definitely not. However, it does bring home the following takeaways:

1) everyone’s work needs regular and thorough review, no matter how senior you are; and

2) appropriate controls and oversight need to be in place for every single employee, irrespective of your stature, title, or level of earned trust.

# Adapted with thanks from a post by Chris Bauer of

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