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.