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Top 8 types of employee theft to watch out for

February 3, 2023
How Solink Helps 1
Solink is an app + platform that connects your point of sale transactions with your video footage and looks for unusual transactions and activity in the data. Having Solink connected to your systems is like having eyes on every transaction. Search by employee name, product sold, coupon type, or time of day and see exactly what was printed on each receipt, with a perfectly-synced video clip to give you visual context. We also have a suite of sophisticated motion features that can provide you with alerts for things like top shelf liquor bottles being moved or unauthorized back room access.

Employee theft happens everywhere, but it can be hard to catch.

Thankfully, you’ve got an advantage: Solink helps thousands of brick-and-mortar customers discover employee theft in their businesses, and that’s how we know what types of employee theft and scams are hot this year. Let’s review—and remember, there’s even more content about employee theft in our complete guide to employee theft!


To see how Solink’s VSaaS platform can help you get a handle on every type of employee theft, sign up for a demo today.

1. Skimming

This popular POS employee theft scam occurs when an employee charges a customer full price but takes a little cash out of the total for themselves. This may result in telltale cash register imbalances, or, it can be more complex, like using coupon codes on a customer’s purchase while still charging them full price and then pocketing the difference.

In situations where your staff manually accept cash in a fast-paced environment like a bar, this is an easy scam to pull: charge a customer $5 for the beer, deposit $4, and blame the fast pace of the evening for the till imbalance later on.

2. Under ringing

Under ringing is a popular scam that’s a bit harder to spot than skimming, because the cash register total will balance out at the end of the night. What won’t balance out is your inventory count. When an employee charges a client for all five of their purchased items but only inputs four of them into the cash register, that’s under ringing.

Note that, beyond employee theft, self checkouts are at a high risk for under ringing.

You may not notice anything is wrong until inventory day when you realize you’re completely sold out of item X, yet don’t see any sales of that item in your data. The bigger your business and larger your inventory, the harder it is to catch this scam. Some well-placed security cameras in your restaurant can help you track down the missing inventory.

3. Sweethearting

Sweethearting can take many forms, but it usually relates to an employee giving a friend or family member a “discount”—either by literally inputting their employee discount or by other cash register tricks like voiding a scan, giving a refund without retrieving the product, overriding the price manually, or failing to scan an item at all.

This is one of the main forms of discount abuse.

Some estimates state that sweethearting costs businesses nearly $100 billion annually. It’s a type of employee theft that is often taken for granted by the perpetrators, who may feel like they’re entitled to the discount or don’t understand how it doesn’t apply to their extended family. Without eyes on the cash at all times, this type of theft is hard to catch because you can’t know for certain if your employee was simply buying something for themselves while on break.

Solink can help you find discount abuse by integrating your POS and security cameras directly without a text inserter.

4. Product theft

A more direct and apparent form of theft, product theft is self-explanatory. The complication comes in when employees are asked to explain their theft. It’s very easy for a fast-food worker to see a box of fries or a latte as a small “perk” that doesn’t hurt anyone, but these small items can add up. Product theft is the internal version of shoplifting, and you can use the same tools to spot employees stealing inventory.

Of course, you may also encounter the more brazen employee thieves who steal larger inventory items where no justification could be possible. Try as they might to excuse it, no one really believes their company owes them a free big screen TV or a new pair of shoes. Worse still is if you’re dealing with a thief who’s turning a profit on their theft: taking multiple items and selling them online or to friends for a profit. Halting employee theft of inventory is a mandatory step in reducing shrinkage.

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5. Blunt theft

Direct and impactful, blunt theft occurs when an employee takes cash directly from the register. There could be several motivating factors for blunt theft, but a good place to begin your investigation is with staff members who have been vocal about feeling underpaid, under-appreciated, or taken for granted.

Depending on your store’s cash handling procedures, it could take a while to figure out who is stealing from the till, especially in an environment where multiple staff have to access the same register repeatedly throughout the day.

If you are having trouble tracking down this type of employee theft, consider getting a professional audit of your business security camera system.

To see how Solink can improve your business security camera system, sign up for a demo today.

6. Time theft

Coming in late, leaving early, or taking long breaks cost your business, especially if you inadvertently end up compensating for these MIA staff by adding an extra person to the sales floor. Take a look at our related article on how to identify and minimize time theft.

7. Short ring

Your bartender makes a cosmo that sells for $10, but rings it in as a screwdriver that sells for $5, and pockets the difference. Hard to catch until your inventory is out of whack, this popular scam can cost you thousands of dollars by year-end.

One of the reasons why this type of employee theft persists is improper loss prevention training. The new bartender sees the senior person doing this trick and assumes it is accepted practice by management. Be sure to keep your theft conversation ongoing with employees so they know you take it seriously. That’s just one of our tips on talking to staff about theft.

8. Gift card

There are many ways to scam gift cards, but maybe the simplest is to scan a customer’s card, tell them it’s now empty and that they’ll be throwing it out—when in reality your employee is stashing it for later because there’s still a balance on it.

Customer experience is important for every business, and employees stealing from your customers should be treated the same as if they were stealing from you directly.

Take a look at our step-by-step guide to preventing employee theft.

What this means for you:

Keeping your eyes open for different types of employee theft can be really difficult, and you’ll likely rely heavily on your transaction data and video footage to investigate any suspicions. For many managers and owners, investigation can be such a drain on time that often it’s not completed, or even started.

Hours of footage on a grainy screen in the back room while business is still rolling all day long sounds like a job most don’t have time for. Solink can save you all that time and even find discrepancies in transactions on its own, so remember there’s help here waiting for you!

You might also want to download this great infographic outlining this year’s top types of employee theft.

Post it in your break room to show your staff that you’re aware and watching for signs of problems. Often, thieves underestimate how smart their bosses are; deter them from the start with preventative measures.

A tiny preview of this great download!