Workplace theft is a serious problem for employers. Nationwide, they are feeling the pain of big losses. BIG losses. And to the surprise of many, the losses aren’t due to the sticky fingers of customers.

More losses occur due to their own employees than to shoplifters, or even organized crime, according to a recent report. The average employee theft case totals $996. Compare that to shoplifting which costs companies on average only $337.

Retailers have the incentive to prevent employee theft whenever possible. The National Retail Security Survey (NRSS) revealed that in 2010, shoplifting and organized retail crime accounted for about 31% of inventory shrinkage, while thefts by employees made up a whopping 45% of losses.

News reports are full of employees stealing clothing, perfume, cosmetics, athletic shoes, housewares and sporting goods, and selling it on eBay, Craig’s list and other websites. In other cases, office employees with access to cash are often charged with embezzlement, or cashiers are accused of loading store debit and credit cards with cash amounts.

But employee theft doesn’t stop there. Dishonest employees may walk out the door with trade secrets, sensitive data, unearned pay, and money.  It also seems employees are working together to rip off their employers: the report states about 18% of internal theft cases involved collusion by falsifying paychecks and inflating purchase amounts.

Another hidden but substantial cost is lost productivity due to employers conducting personal business at work or visiting social media sites.

Employers have an incentive to prevent employee theft whenever possible. One way to help protect any business from employee theft is to conduct thorough background checks and usepre-employment honesty and integrity testing.