Former FBI agent shares three ways to cut internal theft

November 3, 2015

Joe DeSalvo is Vice President, Corporate Security, for GardaWorld Cash Services. He’s responsible for security controls over all of the company’s operations and leading the investigations, loss prevention, security systems, and business continuity programs in the US.

As a former FBI special agent in New York City, Joe has more than 20 years of experience in corporate security and in leading federal law enforcement and global risk management programs. Over the years, he’s investigated his share of internal theft from simple pilfering at the retail level to more complex thefts in large corporate environments.

Recently we caught up with him to get more insight to what drives internal theft and how to deal with it. In the following interview, Joe shares his three core strategies for reducing and, hopefully, eliminating the problem: prevention, detection and response.

How big a problem is internal theft for retailers, restaurants and other types of GardaWorld customers?

It’s a huge problem. According to the National Retail Federation, US retailers lost $44 billion in so-called shrinkage in 2014 — costing US shoppers about $300 per household every year. That includes shoplifting, employee theft, administrative errors and vendor fraud.

While shoplifting accounts for 37 percent of that amount, employee theft is close behind at 34.5 percent, or $15.2 billion. And that’s just the retail industry. For example, add in stolen cash and goods in the restaurant industry, including giveaways to customers, and the figure runs much higher.

Why do employees steal from their employers?

There are two primary reasons. One, they do it to spite their employers. For example, they might not feel they’re being paid enough or recognized enough for their work, especially if it involves long hours, tough customers or some combination of these factors and possibly others, like having to work holidays. Second, they do it because they can — a crime of opportunity, if you will. These thefts typically occur because controls and supervision are weak or non-existent.

What can business owners and managers do to prevent internal theft?

The three main pillars of defense against internal theft are prevention, detection and response.

Taking prevention first, employers should strive for the best working conditions they can. These would include initial and ongoing training, fair pay, professional development and advancement, timely and constructive feedback, and recognition and thanks for work well done.

In addition, they should minimize or eliminate opportunities to steal as much as possible. For both cash and goods, that can be done through good controls and supervision. For cash alone, that can be done by minimizing the various cash touch points that might occur in the course of a working day, especially during transactions as well as non-transactional activities like counting and reconciling cash, or taking deposits to the bank.

Detection takes many forms, from the physical, like video surveillance and anti-shoplifting tags and alarms, to the procedural, like accounting controls and both periodic and surprise audits.

And, finally, in all cases, the response to internal theft needs to be prompt and resolute, with zero tolerance for the thief or thieves. Investigations need to be conducted as soon as a theft is discovered and quite visibly, to send a message to employees; the culprit or culprits should be fired; and, if the theft warrants, they should be prosecuted. Any response less than that opens the door to other employees stealing and thinking they can get away with it.

How can GardaWorld Cash Services help?

As I mentioned, one of the keys to preventing internal theft is not to provide opportunities to steal through poor controls and inadequate supervision. Another one that especially applies to cash involves creating what we call “a single chain of custody” for your cash, to minimize or eliminate points during a shift or workday when employees touch cash, such as when reconciling cash balances or preparing deposits.

GardaWorld’s Cash Services can help in several ways, with each an element in building a single chain of custody for your cash. Because GardaWorld owns that chain of custody, it also owns all the liability for any losses that occur while the cash is in its possession.

For example, one GardaWorld cash service is our CashLINK service, which uses so-called smart safe technology. CashLINK puts an on-premise safe with scanning capabilities that can count cash and checks as each is deposited into the safe.

With CashLINK, employees and managers just deposit their receipts into the safe without having to count and reconcile them – saving them a lot of time and any temptation to steal. And because the CashLINK smart safe is networked to the customer’s bank, the business gets a provisional bank account credit right away, which helps cash flow.

Another important part of the chain of custody is our secure transportation service, which can help improve workplace safety and let employees know that their employer takes security seriously. Cash transport services can also more than pay for itself in payroll savings, because owners, managers and employees don’t have to go to the bank to make deposits or get change.

A third cash service associated with our secure transportation service is our EvenXchange service. This brings the requested amount of currency and coin to any location with just a phone call. Again, this cash delivery service not only saves employees’ and managers’ time, but also eliminates a cash touch point, where thefts and errors can result in lost cash.

With GardaWorld Cash Services, businesses can reduce the amount of time employees and managers must handle cash, which in turn reduces the opportunities for cash thefts. What’s more, they can save employee time that could be better spent with customers to increase sales.


To learn more about how you can cut the potential for internal theft in your operations by using GardaWorld Cash Services, contact your local representative or 855 GO GARDA. For more general information, please visit