According to the latest Columbia Encyclopedia, embezzlement is the wrongful use of an individual’s property for one’s own selfish needs. In other words, the property of one individual which is legally entrusted to another individual who uses it for his or her own selfish needs dishonestly or illegally is embezzlement.
Unfaithful employees, agents, servants, guardians, and trustees who misappropriated another’s property could be sued in civil courts. The guilty can be sued on the grounds of legally possessing the property and breaching his owner’s trust by wrongfully misappropriating it to his or her own use.
Embezzlement cases have risen in recent years. In South Carolina, 38 people were charged with embezzlement in 1994. This number has increased to 442. According to the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics, embezzlement cases increased by 39 percent between 1990 and 2000 nationally.
There are more statistics on embezzlement. Studies by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners revealed that almost half of employees who commit fraud earn less than $50,000 a year. Most of the employees have worked at the victim’s organization for at least 5 years. Interestingly, about 50 percent employees who have committed fraud are women. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, in their 2004 report, stated that around 50 percent of frauds occurred in organizations with fewer than 100 employees.
Another interesting statistic reveals that a very small percentage of embezzlers are hardened criminals.
Here are some signs identified by experts that could mean that an employee in your organization might be embezzling:
- An employee refusing a promotion
- Unusual decrease in profits
- Important documents go missing
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