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It has nothing to do with concrete blocks and mortar. Cranes and bulldozers are not involved, and it has no reference to the facility where you make your deposits or take out a loan. The first time you encounter it, you may think you're ahead of the game. What it may all mean is the foundation for a scam to steal hard earned cash from the register. Building a bank, also known as "padding the register" is part of a theft scheme and you may never know it without a keen sense and knowledge of how it's done and the skills to do something about it.
The Dishonest Cashier - The scheme starts with a strategic plan by a cashier. Armed with the knowledge of the cash register operation, audit processes, and supervisory skills of the management team, a dishonest cashier can steal cash and not have a shortage on the register. The cash thefts are cleverly disguised and hidden from routine cash drawer countdowns.
The Scheme - At opportunistic times while ringing the sales transaction, or sometime after, the dishonest cashier will manipulate the sale by various methods to cancel or reduce the sale. The cash components that are generally fraudulently manipulated are no sales, voids, price reductions, refunds, promotions, etc. During a legitimate sale, the cashier rings a no sale, but accepts the payment from the customer and places the cash in the register creating an overage in the amount of the sale. The overage that is created by building the bank is then stolen, making the cash drawer even, making the theft at first glance undetectable. Other theft schemes that occur during a sales transaction are ringing in a discounted price, fictitious employee meal, or promotion code but charging the customer the higher amount.
Building the Bank - The theft schemes can be expanded to legitimate sales transactions after the sale has been completed. Sometime after the sale, the dishonest cashier voids the transaction or generates an unauthorized refund, again creating a cash overage. If the cashier has possession of manager override codes or swipe cards, thefts will increase dramatically with unauthorized use. The cashier continues the scam throughout the shift, each time leaving the cash in the register, thus building the bank or padding the register. The cash is left in the register until such time that it can be removed safely, without detection. It is important to keep track of the accumulated overage of cash in the register and the cashier does so with their own accounting methods. For example, a nickel may be placed aside to represent a $5 overage, a dime - $10; or other items may be used to reference overages in the forms of paper clips, salt/pepper/condiment packs, straws, tooth picks, etc. They build the bank and keep track of the overages in lieu of stealing the cash each time they manipulate the sale because of the higher chance of getting caught.
Addressing the Issues - Addressing this type of theft begins with cash management policies and procedures understood by each cashier and supervisor. Comprehensive cash management controls also include random cash register audits, single cash drawer accountability, and review of cashier performance not only in cash overages and shortages, but the cash components as well in POS exception reports. A strong progressive disciplinary action program should address poor cashier performance.
Building the bank is a common theft scheme, particularly in locations with drive-thru windows where cashiers are working in isolation. Cashier thefts, however, can be easily accomplished at any register and in the office by dishonest supervisors after cash drawers have been turned in, so be alert for that as well.
Be clear on expectations of cashiers and managers following the rules of your cash management program and follow up for compliance. It will deter them from taking your money to their bank.
For more information on cash management, download a free whitepaper "Cash Shortage Control at the POS."