Embezzlement In Orthodontic Practices – Making Sense of the Mess

Wendy Askins, CFE, MBA

The orthodontic community does not have immunity from embezzlement. Instead, open systems and high levels of delegation create the perfect environment for a would-be embezzler to rob a practice broke.

There are thousands of ways to manipulate transactions for personal gain, and Prosperident continues to uncover new varieties of sophisticated methodologies every month.  Still, there are a few consistencies between confirmed embezzlement cases despite the method or amount stolen; it’s the behavior of thieves.

Embezzlement warning signs:

  •  Alone time
  • Refusal to take a vacation/sick time
  • Territoriality
  • Refusal to cross-train
  • Resistant to outside advisors
  • Conspicuous displays of honesty

The behavior of an embezzler can closely mimic the behavior of a dedicated employee in that they want to control all financial aspects of the practice to “relieve you of the burden.”  You’ll often find that they are deeply embedded in every procedure and with every patient.  That’s why their actions are so financially and emotionally devastating. 

Often the difference can be discerned through the willingness of the employee to be transparent and validation of the offered explanation.  For example, upon transaction inquiry, a dedicated employee, who is proud of their work, will relish the opportunity to prove how hard they are working for you, will be able to provide a prompt and very detailed explanation, with supporting documentation. Personal verification of the dedicated employee’s statements is quick and easy.

The embezzler’s manipulation strategy is to make you question your sanity so that they can gain control over you. An embezzler will often delay having to answer questions by utilizing gaslighting statements, such as “why are you wasting your time, let me take care of it” or “you just don’t understand how it works.”  The conversation will leave you feeling as if you are crazy for even asking the question.  Their explanations will be illogical, and most importantly, the transaction cannot be verified.

Prosperident has developed the Embezzlement Risk Assessment Questionnaire, which can help to expose behaviors linked to possible nefarious actions.  The Questionnaire is available for a nominal fee at our web store HERE.

Prosperident Pulse # 88 – November 2019

Dental Prosperident Pulse from Prosperident
Issue #88 — November 2019
Hear Davy Clay, one of the nicest guys in dentistry, of Dental Claims Support interview David Harris on his podcast HERE.
Learn from the Experts!
Did you know that there are some topics that we will ONLY discuss at closed-door, live events?
Can you believe that this woman embezzled from her father’s practice?
See us live if you want the full story on embezzlement.
Here are some places where we will be speaking soon:
Nov 19 Memphis Dental Society, Memphis TN
Feb 27 Ortho2 User Group Meeting, San Diego CA
Mar 9 Cloud9 User Group Meeting, Atlanta GA
Mar 11 Schulman Group, Laguna Beach CA
Apr 24 East Texas Study Club, Bullard TX
May 9 Smile Source Exchange, Atlanta GA
Feb 25 Chicago Dental Society Mid-Winter Meeting, Chicago IL
To book us for your meeting or study club, click HERE or call us at 888-398-2327.
Did you miss a previous newsletter? We archive them HERE.

We Wrote the Book on Embezzlement — Literally!
Our CEO, David Harris’ book was released this month, and is now available in paperback and kindle formats on Amazon (the Amazon link is HERE).
Stuck on what to get as a Christmas present for your favorite dentist? Look no further.Laughing
This Month’s Question

If embezzlement was happening in my practice, my accountant would find it, right?

Probably not. Picture someone planning on starting a new business saying this to their (less than tactful) accountant:
“George, I have fantastic news. I’m about to start a new business. And I’m so excited because I’m planning to have one piece of software keep track of revenue, and a totally different software account for my expenses. And here is the best part … these two pieces of software won’t ever communicate with each other!”
Something to Talk About…
With Thanksgiving soon to be upon us, it is time for me to identify the thinks I am grateful for.
Someone recently said that I have the coolest job in dentistry. I get to protect dentists, who constitute the nicest group of people I have ever met, from those who have decided that stealing money is preferable to earning it. This work is both important and meaningful.
Because of what we do, when dentists approach us it is often at a fairly dark time in their careers. There are few things more upsetting than having a suspicion that a trusted staff member is stealing.
We endeavor to meet these concerned dentists in a way that is kind, empathetic, and not the least bit judgmental. By assuming the burden of resolving their uncertainty, we help them return to productivity. For us, this is a tremendously satisfying activity.
I am also lucky to have an amazing group of colleagues. From our management team to our cadre of fraud examiners to our admin team, our people undertake challenging work with enthusiasm and professionalism, and I am appreciative of their immense contribution to our reputation and success.
Most of all, I am grateful to have a job where, every morning, I wake up and can’t wait to go to work. Thank you, colleagues, clients, and the dental profession. I really am the luckiest guy in the world!
David Harris

We are Prosperident, Dentistry’s Embezzlement Experts

If Embezzlement is Happening in my Practice, My Accountant Would Find it, Right?

Probably not.  Picture someone planning on starting a new business saying this to their (less than tactful) accountant:
“George, I have fantastic news.  I’m about to start a new business.  And I’m so excited because I’m planning to have one piece of software keep track of revenue, and a totally different software account for my expenses.  And here is the best part … these two pieces of software won’t ever communicate with each other!”
The accountant’s response would probably be along the lines that this was a monumentally bad idea and would never work.
We can chuckle a bit at this exchange, and yet we just described every dental practice. 

The disconnect between practice management software and the accounting process is one of the major reasons that accountants find less than 10% of the embezzlement that takes place in dental practices.  However, many practitioners still believe that their accountant is a cornerstone of their protection against embezzlement.

The majority of embezzlement in dental practices is actually uncovered by the behavior of the staff member who is stealing. Our Embezzlement Risk Assessment Questionnaire is a low-cost way to evaluate the behavior of your employees. To get yours, click HERE.

NY Dentist Office Manager Arrested for Stealing from Employer


A woman from Montour Falls was arrested yesterday (October 15) and charged with grand larceny, after Ithaca investigators say she stole from her employer at a dentist’s office in the city while working as an office manager.

According to Ithaca Police, 56-year-old Kathy Harris “misappropriated 175 gift cards” belonging to her employer at Fall Creek Family Dentistry on N. Cayuga Street.

Officials say the thefts occurred over a period of five years.

Harris’ arrest comes at the end of a lengthy investigation by the Ithaca Police Department, Tompkins County Sheriff’s Department, and the Tompkins County District Attorney’s Office.

She was released on an appearance ticket to Ithaca City Court on October 23.

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