Thieves Are Everywhere! (And You’ve Probably Already Hired One)

Hiring a dishonest employee can have serious financial and legal consequences; to say nothing of the damage that can be done to your reputation. Businesses in the service industry who send employees into customers’ homes or businesses are particularly exposed to risk.

Everyone loves a good heist story like “The Italian Job” or “The Thomas Crown Affair”, but when you or your customers are the victims it’s not quite as entertaining. Employers who don’t pre-screen their applicants leave themselves and their customers wide open to employees who steal, cheat and lie.

Reports of car thefts, break-ins, burglaries, armed robberies, corrupt bankers, businessmen and politicians fill our daily news. Even “Judge Judy” presents us with a daily parade of everyday individuals with broken moral compasses. Dishonest people are everywhere, and you don’t have to look very hard to find them.

Prisons are full of people who thought they’d get away with it but most thieves aren’t Bernie Madoff’s or charming scallywags that they make movies about. Most dishonest people are your everyday shoplifters, pickpockets, embezzlers and opportunistic thieves. Many of them are repeat offenders who never get caught and those who do often spend only a short time in jail.

These people don’t sit around waiting to mug Granny or planning their next international gold heist. Most of them have jobs. That means that some unsuspecting employer has hired them. The problem for employers is that most don’t do criminal background checks. Even if they do it will only identify the people who already have criminal records. The accomplished thief who has never been caught will slip right through this kind of screening – and that’s why honesty tests exist.

Today we’re no longer talking about people who steal a few dollars from your wallet or pilfer your wife’s jewellery box. Now you can be victimized and not even know that it has happened. An Alberta company and two of their customers just found this out the hard way. The in-home alarm installer that they’d hired had good references and had worked for other alarm companies, but the employer didn’t conduct a criminal background check because it’s not required by law in Alberta. Had they done so, they’d have discovered that this employee had “a long list of criminal convictions dating back to 1996, …for theft, forging documents and what’s called “personation with intent,” spanning three provinces — B.C., Alberta and Ontario.”

The dishonest installer took photos of the victim’s driver’s license and credit cards with his phone and then assumed the customer’s identity and charged $1000s on his credit card. Nothing was “missing” and the identity theft wasn’t discovered for weeks.

They had hired a thief with ‘good references’ who had a 20 year criminal history, and who then victimized their customers. As a result, their reputation is badly damaged, the story made the national news and it has probably resulted lost business, to say nothing of the negative publicity. They can probably also guarantee that at least one customer won’t recommend their services to others and will never, ever use them again.

The point is that hiring good people requires more than just an interview, a resume, a few references and your own gut instinct. Criminal background checks aren’t sufficient all by themselves. So how does an employer avoid hiring a potential thief?

The answer is easy. Test your applicants for honesty! It’s not only legal to do, it’s cheap!

It’s a lot cheaper than a background check. For less than $14 the Alberta security company could have avoided all of this bad press, kept its reputation intact and not hired a loser with a history of criminal behaviour going back over two decades. Honest tests have been around for decades. They’re legal and reliable and best of all, they really work. Even better, American employers are allowed to use tests that will also assess a person’s risk for using drugs or alcohol on the job.

There’s no good reason to expose yourself (or your customers) to employees who have a high risk of engaging in dishonest behaviour. The costs of just one incident like the one described above will undoubtedly be far more than a paltry $14. This Alberta employer believed that they’d been doing a good job of vetting their applicants. Obviously, they hadn’t and they and their customers paid a high price for their lack of due diligence.

Employers who don’t test their applicants for honesty are at risk of discovering their error the hard way.

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