The following chapter on Profiles of Embezzlers is an excerpt from David Harris' book Healers versus Stealers: How to Outsmart the Thief in Your Practice.
Like every private investigator, I consider myself an armchair psychologist. From my observation, many Greedy thieves display sociopathic characteristics and also markers of a narcissist. Psychological literature recognizes this combination as a narcissistic sociopath. The accepted traits of an antisocial personality disorder (sociopathy) include:
Superficial charm and intelligence.
Lack of remorse.
Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior.
Delusions of invincibility.
Failure to learn by experience.
Failure to follow any life plan.
Some behavioral characteristics of narcissism are:
Self-importance. Think they should be your “partner” in the business. Never mind that they didn’t go to dental school or borrow the money to buy it.
Focus on appearance.
Exaggerate achievements and abilities.
Believe they are of special or high status.
Think they can only be understood by similar people.
Need for admiration.
Sense of entitlement and expects favorable treatment.
Envious of others or thinks others envy them.
Clearly, there will be some embezzlers who do not fit any profile that we could develop. Still, many of the embezzlers I have encountered, particularly the “serial embezzlers” who have stolen from more than a single practice, fit the narcissistic sociopath category fairly closely.
Some common profiles of embezzlers are what we describe as the Hero, the Control Freak, and the Sugar Momma.
The Hero looks for a practice that is struggling. This practice is the disorganized office that has a large number of unpaid insurance claims and receivables that are out of control. The Hero claims that they have cleaned up bigger messes before and that they love a challenge.
They know too well that you will be feeling so relieved at having found the perfect person to take on the herculean task of getting your office back on track that the last thing that will dawn on you is to call that last office that the Hero supposedly whipped into shape to obtain a job reference. While sometimes the Hero can achieve some short-term success with these problems, they have considerably oversold their experience and abilities. Their true focus is cleaning you out, not up.
When we discuss profiles of embezzlers, I’m sure that you can conjure up a mental picture of the Control Freak. He or she is the person of whom the other staff members are terrified. He or she holds guards their duties jealously and reacts aggressively to what they perceive as an encroachment. This territoriality will often extend to their workspace and “their” computer, and someone else who sits at their desk or touches their computer will likely receive a dose of this person’s wrath. The control freak may combine their tyranny over staff with subservience to you (which one of my team labels the “teacher’s pet”).
At the opposite end of the behavioral spectrum when we talk about profiles of embezzlers is the Sugar Momma (who, of course, can be of either gender). The Sugar Momma is the person who bestows largesse on other team members. Sometimes it is baking cookies and bringing them into the office; at other times, it is tampering with the pay of one or more employees to pay them for hours beyond what they actually worked or giving them a pay raise that you didn’t approve.
Why do they do this? You may have heard the saying that “you don’t look a gift horse in the bicuspids.” I’m not suggesting that Sugar Momma’s chosen ones are complicit in his or her illicit activities. However, if these staff members have a concern about what Sugar Momma is doing, they are far more likely to go to him or her than to you with that concern.
Do you have questions about embezzlement in your practice? Please give us a call at 888-398-2327 or click HERE.