22 Stunning Employee Theft Statistics [2023]: Facts Every Employer Should Know

By Chris Kolmar
Feb. 23, 2023
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Cite This Webpage Zippia. "22 Stunning Employee Theft Statistics [2023]: Facts Every Employer Should Know" Zippia.com. Feb. 23, 2023, https://www.zippia.com/advice/employee-theft-statistics/

Research Summary. Employee theft is an unfortunate consequence of running a business. Despite your best efforts, it’s always possible to hire someone who has the potential to steal from their place of work. After extensive research, our research team concluded that:

  • 75% of employees admit to stealing from their employer at least once.

  • Employee theft costs employers up to $50 billion annually.

  • Approximately 95% of U.S. businesses are affected by employee theft.

  • On average, 5% of an organization’s revenue is lost to employee theft each year.

  • 22% of small business owners have experienced employee theft.

For further analysis, we broke down the data in the following ways:
Opinions | Cost | Types | Industry | Trends and Predictions | Demographics
75% of employees admit to stealing from their employer  Amounting to $50 billion  in costs each year

General Employee Theft Statistics

Individuals may steal from their place of employment for a variety of reasons. Many think they know the system well, so theft may be easier and more accessible due to their extensive knowledge.

Others may be frustrated with their job or salary, while others may feel desperate to provide for their families or themselves. Whatever the case, theft is prevalent in all businesses. Consider these statistics:

  • Based on a 2021 study, retailers reported that employee theft amounted to 28.5% of inventory shrink.

    This is a slight decrease over 2018’s 33.2% of inventory shrink.

  • 75% of employees have stolen from their employer at least once.

    This means out of every four workers, three have confessed to stealing from management at least once during their employment period. Although this number is alarmingly high, this percentage has decreased about 4% over the last two decades.

  • Although different types of theft affect organizations differently, the median velocity for all cases in a recent study was $8,300 per month.

    The highest impact of theft was financial statement fraud, which resulted in $39,800 a month. Corruption follows at $11,100, noncash at $6,000, check and payment tampering at $4,600, and billing at $4,200.

  • median amount stolen by type of employee theft

Employee Opinions on Theft

We may never know exactly what prompts someone to steal from their employer, especially if they don’t confess to their crimes. However, we know the outcomes of these crimes and what the company’s response is once the theft or fraud is uncovered. Our research team has uncovered statistics demonstrating what exactly happens to employees who steal:

  • 80% of perpetrators received some sort of punishment in response to theft.

    Of this number, only 45% of owners and executives were terminated from their positions compared to 66% of managers and 76% of employees.

  • employee theft terminations by position

  • Of the cases of employee theft reported to law enforcement, 56% plead guilty.

    23% of perpetrators were convicted at their trial. 12% were declined prosecution, while only 2% of this number were acquitted.

  • 40% of thieves have experienced some type of HR-related red flags before committing fraud or theft.

    Statistics from 2019 show that 14% of employees received a negative performance review prior to the theft. 13% of employee theft happened when the employee had a fear of losing their job.

The Cost of Employee Theft

Although there are many small cases of theft, the cost can add up, especially for small businesses who are just starting or may need to recover revenue from factors such as COVID-19.

This could result in businesses needing to take our additional loans, cut staff hours, or even bankruptcy. Here are some statistics that demonstrate just how costly employee theft can be:

  • The average retail theft case costs businesses approximately $440.48, up 19.2% from 2019.

    The average case value in 2019 came in around $369.42, showing that the COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the theft statistics for employees.

  • It’s estimated that 33% of corporate bankruptcies in the United States are linked to employee theft.

    That’s one-third of all business bankruptcies in the United States. These total business losses from bankruptcies amount to $50 billion annually.

Types of Employee Theft

There are different ways theft can happen. Fraud is very common in certain industries, where other industries may experience theft of their products. Additionally, fraud or theft can surface in a few different ways, as demonstrated by the statistics below:

  • In 2020, asset misappropriation was reported in 86% of cases, the most common type of theft used to defraud employers.

    Asset misappropriation involves employees stealing or misusing the company’s resources. However, these schemes usually result in the lowest median loss of $100,000 per case.

    10% of schemes are financial statement fraud schemes, where the thief intentionally causes a material misstatement or omission in the company’s financial statements. Despite this low percentage, they are the costliest category for businesses.

  • 43% of thefts are initially detected from internal tips.

    Of those who report fraud, 50% are internal employees, while 22% are customers. 15% prefer to stay anonymous. Within organizations, 15% of fraud is also uncovered by an internal audit, 12% by management review, while 5% are uncovered simply by accident.

  • employee theft reporting by source

  • 41% of occupational fraud was committed by general employees.

    Managers committed 35% of fraud, while owners/executives committed 20%. However, the costliest fraud was committed by owners/executives who racked up about $600,000 for every case.

Employee Theft by Industry Statistics

If an employee wants to steal, they will likely figure out a way to do it. The type of industry you work within could impact the type of theft your business experiences, as well as how many cases and financial loss.

  • The top industry for theft is mining, reporting a median loss of $475,000 from 26 cases.

    However, banking and financial services were the top industry for the number of cases, reporting 386 cases in a single year with a median loss of $100,000. The energy industry is the second-highest industry by median loss, reporting a median loss of $275,000, followed by the real estate industry who reported a median loss of $254,000.

  • Industries With the Most Theft

    Industry Median Loss # Of Cases
    Mining $475,000 26
    Energy $275,000 60
  • The industry with the least employee theft is insurance, reporting a median loss of $70,000 from 85 cases.

    Communications is the industry with the least cases, reporting 15 total cases for a median loss of $115,000. Education is the second least high, reporting a median loss of $65,000, followed by religious, charitable, or social services, which reported a median loss of $76,000.

  • Industries With the Least Theft

    Industry Median Loss # Of Cases
    Education $65,000 101
    Insurance $70,000 85

Employee theft seems to be on the rise, based on numbers from recent surveys. This could have something to do with financial insecurity or the fact that many feel no obligation to their place of employment. Whatever the case, it’s important for businesses to have fraud or theft monitoring in place.

  • Cases of employee theft increased from an average of 323 apprehensions per retailer in 2018 to 560 in 2019.

    This increase also includes shoplifting, of which there were 509 reported cases in 2018 and 689 in 2019.

  • Prosecution data shows that 14 months typically pass between when an employee theft scheme begins and when it’s detected.

    The longest the fraud remains undetected, the greater the financial losses, so it’s important to have a system in place.

Employee Theft Demographics

Theft often knows no boundaries, but certain demographics stand out more than others as it relates to the type of person more likely to steal from their place of employment.

Many of these individuals may feel it’s necessary to steal from their place of employment to help support families or other responsibilities they may have. Consider the following employee theft demographics:

  • According to a 2020 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse, 72% of all occupational fraud is committed by men.

    This statistic still holds true, regardless of the man’s level of authority (employee, manager, and owner/executive). Additionally, those owners or executives who were male accounted for larger losses than their female counterparts.

  • According to the same study, 53% of fraudsters were between the ages of 31 and 45.

    Those between the ages of 56 to 60 or above the age of 50 accounted for less than 10% of all cases. However, they caused media losses of $400,000 and $575,000, respectively. These are by far the largest losses of any age group reported.

  • 49% of employee theft was performed by those with a university degree.

    Only 22% of thefts were performed by those with high school diplomas or less, whereas 15% of thefts happened from those with a postgraduate degree. Interestingly enough, those with a postgraduate degree had the highest median loss of $200,000.

  • employee theft by education level

Statistics on Employee Theft FAQ

  1. What is time theft?

    Time theft is when an employee accepts pay for work or labor they should be performing but aren’t. This can come in a few different forms. First is buddy punching, when another employee clocks an employee in or out if they’re running late or leaving early.

    Over-extended breaks are another version, as well as internet time theft. Timecard fraud can be performed by rounding hours up or the use of excessive personal time. All of these are considered time theft.

  2. What is embezzlement?

    Embezzlement is a common white-collar crime where an individual misappropriates assets entrusted to them. Typically the person performing the embezzlement will receive the assets legally but uses those assets for unintended purposes.

  3. How much did employees steal in 2021?

    Employees stole around $50 billion in 2021. While it’s hard to pinpoint an exact number, experts estimate that roughly $50 billion is stolen from employers by employees every year.

    Overall though, here are the median amounts stolen from different businesses based on types of theft:

    • Financial Statement Fraud: $39,800

    • Corruption: $11,100

    • Noncash: $6,000

    • Check & Payment Tampering: $4,600

    • Billing: $4,200

  4. How common is employee theft?

    Employee theft is surprisingly common, with 95% of US businesses being affected. In fact, U.S. businesses report that employee theft amounted to 28.5% of inventory shrink, with the average loss from theft being $1,203.16.

    Further, it’s estimated that 33% of corporate bankruptcies in the United States are linked to employee theft. These total business losses from bankruptcies amount to $50 billion annually.

    Employee theft has a huge impact on businesses, especially small ones, and is exceptionally common.

  5. What percent of employees steal from their employers?

    75% of employees have admitted stealing from their employer at least once. And that’s just those who have admitted to doing it, which means the number could be even higher than three out of four.

    The average theft case amounts to $440.48, up 19.2% in 2020, meaning thieves aren’t necessarily just stealing their bosses’ pencils. Rather, many employees steal decent sums of money from their employers.

    However, as a silver lining, this percentage has decreased by about 4% over the last two decades. In part, employees being fired or convicted after committing theft has helped reduce these numbers.

  6. Can you get fired for time theft?

    Yes, you can get fired for time theft. This is essentially receiving pay for hours you haven’t worked or tasks you haven’t completed. While you will not be charged in any way (as time theft isn’t a crime), your employer likely won’t be happy about your performance.

    Plus, if the damage is bad enough, your employer may decide to prosecute in an attempt to recover losses.

    Regardless of the type of theft, you commit, 76% of employees who commit theft are fired. Overall, 80% of perpetrators received some sort of punishment in response to the theft, from termination to being charged with an actual crime.


Employee theft is much more widespread than many even realize. Individuals steal for various reasons, often when they are angry or frustrated with their employer or desperate for financial means to support themselves or their families. Whatever the case, it’s clear that employee theft can significantly and negatively impact any business.

Regardless of your company’s industry, size, or sector, it’s important to have proper measures in place to protect your company and business from theft or fraud. Additionally, it’s important to conduct extensive interviews with potential candidates and background checks to ensure you can lessen the chance of fraud happening at your business.


  1. ACFE. “Report to the Nations: 2020 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse.” Accessed on September 10, 2021.

  2. Loss Prevention Magazine. “Shedding Light on Retail Theft Statistics.” Accessed on September 10, 2021.

  3. CalRest. “Employee Theft: Why do employees steal?” Accessed on September 10, 2021.

  4. SHRM. “Why is Workplace Theft on the Rise?” Accessed on September 10, 2021.

  5. CNBC. “This crime in the workplace is costing US businesses $50 billion a year.” Accessed on September 10, 2021.

  6. Deep Sentinel. “Workplace Woes: Employee Theft Statistics.” Accessed on February 23, 2023.

  7. Forbes. “Shoplifting Has Become A $100 Billion Problem For Retailers.” Accessed on February 23, 2023.

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Chris Kolmar

Chris Kolmar is a co-founder of Zippia and the editor-in-chief of the Zippia career advice blog. He has hired over 50 people in his career, been hired five times, and wants to help you land your next job. His research has been featured on the New York Times, Thrillist, VOX, The Atlantic, and a host of local news. More recently, he's been quoted on USA Today, BusinessInsider, and CNBC.

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