Addicted To Embezzling?

embezzler "Lisa"
CBS/The Early Show
Last year, nearly 18,000 people were arrested for stealing from their companies. But Melinda Murphy found out that stealing isn't always about the money.

A woman Murphy met doesn't think of herself as a thief, even though she says she's embezzled tens of thousands of dollars. More than anything, she wants to stop, but says she can't, because stealing has become an addiction.

She asked Murphy to protect her identity, so The Early Show altered her appearance.

"This is not something I'm proud of," says the woman, dubbed "Lisa" by Murphy. "This is not something I set out to do. It's just like this urge inside of me that's just uncontrollable. and it just takes over."

Lisa, a wife and mother, says she's stolen from every job she's had since college, nine companies in all.

Why is she stealing?

"I don't know exactly. Sometimes it's a matter of, I felt I was wronged in some way, and this was my way of getting back at them."

"But it became more than just trying to get even?" Murphy asked.

"Yes, it did. Why, I don't know. It just did, and the more I did it, the more it progressed, and the harder it got to stop."

It started small, Murphy points out. A dollar here, a dollar there. But it grew, until it became what Lisa calls an addiction.

"When you first steal," Murphy wondered, "is there a little bit of a high there?"

"Yes, there is," Lisa answered. "Your heart really is going very, very fast and, for a few minutes, you get that feeling of satisfaction, that you're smarter than they are.

"(And then) you walk out and that guilt just overtakes you. Just overtakes you. (Yet), I keep stealing."

Lisa, a bookkeeper, figures it was tens of thousands of dollars, money she says she didn't need and never planned to steal.

"Embezzlement takes a huge toll," points out Terry Shulman, a consultant on employee theft who counsels addicted embezzlers and wrote, "Biting the Hand That Feeds."

"It definitely is in the billions of dollars a year," he says, adding that this kind of embezzling is different than most employee theft, because the average thief doesn't feel guilty about stealing, while those addicted usually do.