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Embezzlement in Self-Storage: Danger Signs for Facility Owners and Tips for Prevention

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Employees who never complain. Most employees have some complaints about the property, pay, petty cash, etc. In general, embezzlers don't complain because they know that behavior will only bring attention and disrupt their system.

Low cash deposits. As an owner or property manager, it’s a good idea to trend the monthly cash payments and income at the property. If the cash payments change dramatically, you may have a problem.

Delays in making timely deposits or deposit errors. Deposits should be made daily in the order they were received. Once per week, track the daily deposits and when they were actually deposited to the bank. Ask managers to submit their daily close from the computer, with a detailed deposit slip and bank receipt. Also, check each month's bank statement carefully for any deposit corrections.

Overage or underage in the daily cash-drawer counts. Check the petty cash and cash drawer when you’re at the property. Most embezzlement begins with petty cash. Each receipt should be carefully reviewed. If you find something unusual or personal on the receipt, discuss it with the employee immediately.

Managers who don’t move a customer out of the computer when the unit is vacated. This is a way an employee can take a credit in the computer and either use it for that space or transfer it to another space. Rent credits are now the most common form of embezzlement. They’re difficult to track since managers give credits for a variety of reasons.

Employees who are too eager or never want to have auctions. Basically, these embezzlers are taking money from customers who are often required to pay in cash.

A disorganized office. Employees may just excuse missing contracts and mystery space as errors because they’re “so busy,” “under staffed,” or their “relief managers are idiots.”

Personal problems. This can include suspicions of marital discord, employees who love to gamble, addictions, and employees with dependents who live with them. Their personal problems put them in a situation where they’re tempted to embezzle funds from the storage property. 

Suspicious and unexplained break-ins. Some employees love to take things from customer spaces. Typically, they’ll pilfer from customers who are in lien status, but many also target current customers. If you have customer who complains about this problem, investigate everyone.

Excessively high delinquencies. Be wary of extremely high delinquencies and pay careful attention to lien-related activities. You may notice that postage at the store is low based on the number of delinquent spaces. This is because employees didn’t send delinquent notices when they were supposed to. You may find employees weren't even calling delinquent customers. Many delinquent customers make partial payments in cash, which can go directly into the embezzler’s pocket.

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