I was interviewed this last week by Kyle Iboshi, investigative reporter, for KGW News. Here is the link:
The word is getting out.
Last week I posted about a mom who stole from a bank. I was even so bold to say that I thought due to the headline “Mom, daughter, sister, wife & grandma” it would get a lot of clicks. I was wrong. I have been thinking about why the story did not get as much attention as my other stories about pink collar crime. It may be déjà vu to the time that Dr. Freda Adler wrote Sisters in Crime. As you may remember, Dr. Adler wrote Sisters in Crime in 1975 during the time of women’s liberation. She had over 300 media events including the Tonight Show and being interviewed by Barbara Walters. But all she got was pushback from people stating she was taking away from women advancing in the workplace. She even told me on the phone that if she knew how much grief she got she may never have written the book. Her thesis was that women would be incarcerated in greater numbers due to more women being in the workplace.
I tweet regularly about #pinkcollarcrime. There are amazing news articles daily (thanks to Google alerts) about women stealing in the workplace. However, deep down I am starting to think that people don’t want to hear about nice women breaking rules and stealing.
Like Dr. Adler in no uncertain terms do I want to take away from women and their gains in the workplace. What I want to do is to educate business owners and managers about the potential of pink collar crime. With more and more women in the workplace and with an increasing number of women being the primary breadwinners pink collar crime will increase just due to the numbers.
Recently I was asked if I was “picking” on women. My answer was an unequivocal no. But if a man were doing “Catch Her If You Can-Today’s Pink Collar Criminal he may have a more difficult time than myself. I have touched the glass ceiling, my daughter is a staunch activist (even though she still is in high school) and my family has always supported my passion for work.
There is no honesty chromosome that women possess. That is what Dr. Adler brought up over 40 years ago. I will keep drawing attention to pink collar crime and as Dr. Adler told me someday there just might be a Bernice Madoff.
The USA Today recently had this headline “Mom sentenced to nearly 7 years” http://usat.ly/2eFKwAL
Why did they lead with this headline? Because it sells. No one wants to admit it but there is curiosity about a Mom who steals. My headline most likely will be clicked through many times this week due to that. But that is why I call Pink Collar Crime the relatable crime. Most everyone knows someone who either has been victimized by a pink collar criminal or they are aware of a pink collar criminal story in their community-think little league embezzlement or town clerk embezzlement . Most people don’t relate to a violent offender because hopefully you have not been a victim or know someone who has been a victim.
These women aren’t scary. They look like regular moms, sisters, wives or daughters. They are the ones who are working a job in a medical office, small business, municipal government or possibly volunteering at a nonprofit such as a sports club or school club.
As I have been tweeting and posting, this is a growing demographic. Women are in the workplace in record numbers and it looks to stay that way. The world has changed. These women are all in some form or another a mom, daughter, sister, wife or grandma. When you see a story like that what are your initial thoughts?
Just look at women incarceration rates provided by the Prison Policy Initiative from 1910-2014 https://www.prisonpolicy.org/global/women/ Dr. Freda Adler was spot on.
I recently was at a holiday party with a diverse group of people. The one thing they all had in common was Pink Collar Crime. It is the relatable crime. Every group at the party had either been personally embezzled in their business or knew someone directly who had been embezzled. It is like the dirty little secret in business. Also, it is like Kevin Bacon’s 6 degrees of separation but actually in pink collar crime only one degree.
No one wants to admit they have been stolen from. No one wants to admit they were duped daily for sometimes years by their most trusted employee. It hurts. From Jean Le Carre: “The capacity to love is proportionate to the capacity to be betrayed.” I read this in articles about people who have been stolen from. The people who stole often are like family members. They know their target inside and out and often use that to their advantage.
When people find out what I do they start speaking quietly to me. “I want to tell you what happened to me…” and they pour their hearts out to me. From Betrayal (written by Jed Block on the Goodwill NCW $500k theft) “On a personal level, I felt shame, embarrassment and anger. I also experienced a profound sense of loss of innocence and a challenge to my fundamental capacity to trust. Before the embezzlement was discovered, I was an ardent fan of the employee who committed the fraud against us.”
That is the hardest part of my job. I want to restore their trust but they need to understand trust is not an internal control.
You can trust your employees with many things but be very careful when you are trusting them with your finances.
What is a get out of jail free card? Unfortunately for some, it’s the card your employee has when you catch them stealing from you. The panic from the moment you find out you have been stolen from can become even greater. This is when you confront your employee (remember you need legal and HR help for that) and they turn the whole debacle around to possibly get out of jail and threaten you with disclosure of your dirty little secrets.
What are those dirty little secrets? Do you have two sets of books? Do you write off inappropriate expenses? Do you hire and fire illegally? This is just the start of what the desperate thief will try.
What do you do when this happens? Again, (insert legal advice here from a good attorney who has worked these cases before-not your golfing buddy) you need to process your own personal situation. I never tell someone directly not to file with law enforcement. But as your “fraud coach” I will tell you to take a step back and analyze all the angles.
I had a client once who, as so many do, wanted the perp hung in the town square. The client generally needs to be talked off the ledge. You need to prepare for the process. The process is long and hard and not cheap. You need to think about the potential PR crisis. You need to be ready to take responsibility for your business and other employees.
Tone at the top of course is part of the equation. While there is NEVER a reason for stealing you need to understand the rationalization part of the fraud triangle. When you give your assistant your credit card bill or expense report that is filled with personal expenses realize what you are doing. You are possibly chipping away at their own set of values. When they see you expense a family vacation to ski while attending a work conference they see you cheating and stealing. This can start a slippery slope (pun intended) for them to start stealing.
Most people, in my opinion, do not wake up and say I am going to steal from my boss or my employer. What does happen is they go to work and get a call from a bill collector stating they are late and their car is going to be repossessed, their husband or partner leaves them with a mortgage, their kid texts them about the school ski team they can’t afford and then they start down that path.
So when they get caught they are desperate to not go to jail and break up a family. Everything they have seen taking place at work becomes fair game for them to defend themselves. You need to be prepared for this. How do you prepare for this? Tone at the top. I can’t say that enough. What your employees see in your behavior is incredibly important.
I can’t tell you how hard it is for an employer to go through this. They want to do the right thing but they also feel the need to protect themselves and their business. So what happens is that sweet, conniving little Mary gets off and then goes to the next business. Eventually she will get caught but sometimes it takes awhile.
You set the example for your employees. Be the best example you can be. Set the right tone at the top and maybe she won’t have the get out of jail free card.
If this has happened to you I would love to hear from you. Please email me at email@example.com.