Don’t Underestimate the Embezzler

By David Harris MBA CMA CFE and Pat Little DDS FAGD CFE

As investigators, one thing we encounter every time we speak to a group of dentists is that, in the area of embezzlement, they consistently underestimate the capabilities of their opponents.

The most common question asked of us is, “Will this control/procedure/auditing step work?” followed by some procedural change that the questioner intends to implement. Normally, this change is designed to block a specific embezzlement methodology.

For example, one question recently asked in a presentation was whether using a “lockbox” system, where all mail gets delivered to a third party (which then opens the mail and inventories the contents), would prevent embezzlement.

This question is an example of denial of opportunity strategies for controlling embezzlement, because its goal is to block a specific embezzlement pathway.

While we don’t think that strategies of this type are necessarily bad ideas, we do believe that their effectiveness in controlling embezzlement is overestimated.