I’ve Heard That If I Suspect Embezzlement, Stealth Is Important. Why?

When an embezzler thinks that he or she is about to be discovered (and possibly go to jail, have their friends read about them in the newspaper, have their spouse find out about their illegal activities etc.), their thoughts turn to self-preservation.  This is a very powerful emotion, and anyone who has ever taken lifeguarding training is well aware of the danger of getting too close to someone who believes that they are in danger.
We have seen many instances of destroyed hard drives, missing backup media and in a couple of extreme cases, arson and murder committed by dental office embezzlers attempting to cover their tracks.  (read about here — https://www.prosperident.com/2016/07/05/assistants-life-…tal-baltimoresun/ )
Although such efforts normally end badly for the embezzler, the dangers they pose for dentists are considerable.   When we say that embezzlement investigation is a job for professionals, this is one of the reasons why.  Prosperident has expended considerable effort perfecting the ability to conduct stealthy investigations to protect you from these issues.
If you want to discuss your situation in confidence, we are happy to speak with you.  You can call us at 888-398-2327 , send email to our embezzlement hotline which is checked daily by our on-duty investigator at emergency@dentalembezzlement.com, or chat with us using the “chat” button that should be visible in the lower right corner of your screen.   We will get back to you as quickly as we can, normally within 24 hours.

The Cost of Inaction

Two years ago, I set a goal for Prosperident of increasing the knowledge level of dentists and those who advise dentists about embezzlement.
Overall I think we have done a good job of increasing awareness.  Prosperident’s other speakers and I have given literally hundreds of presentations and have logged thousands of travel miles.  Our articles have appeared in every major dental publication in North America.  Google search the word “Prosperident” and you will see the extent of the information that we have put in front of the dental community.
And yet, every once in a while, something happens that causes me to question our effectiveness at getting the word out.  Last week I had two encounters with dentists that caused me to question our effectiveness at getting the word out.
First, I got a call from a dentist.  As this dentist described his situation, it became clear that embezzlement was very likely happening given the suspect’s behavior.  We were retained and began our intake process.  The dentist contacted us two days later to say that he was discontinuing the investigation, and the reason was that there was a labor shortage in the area of the practice.  In other words, that it was better to keep an employee who was stealing from the dentist than trying to find another one.  I couldn’t believe my ears.
A few days later, I got a call from another dentist.  One of this dentist’s staff had taken the scrap gold in the office, sold it, and kept the proceeds.  The question that this dentist was calling to ask me was whether the employee should be fired.  While the amount involved was fairly small, the answer to this question seemed so obvious to me that I’m still having trouble believing that it had to be asked.
What concerned me about both of these incidents is the apparent willingness of the dentists involved to tolerate some level of dishonesty on the part of an employee.
Let me make this simple — there should be ZERO tolerance for dishonesty from your staff.  Someone who will sell a few hundred dollars of your gold is obviously over the ethical hurdle that employees must cross before they steal, so it is only a matter of time before this evolves into a more direct (and monetarily significant) form of stealing. And the dentist who suddenly decided that a local labor shortage existed had obviously bought into the idea than the suspect is completely indispensable to the practice.
The costs of inaction can included severe financial damage.  It also consigns the dentists to “long-term uncertainty” — wondering what these employees are up to will continue for as long as they continue to work in these practices.

Things NOT to do if you suspect embezzlement in your office:

  • Start asking unusual questions of staff
  • Ask for reports you haven’t requested before
  • Spend lots of time in your private office on the phone with your CPA
  • Allow a couple of geeky looking people with briefcases to come to your office to look at stuff
  • Implement additional security features in your software
  • Start posting articles about embezzlement in other offices on your staff room bulletin board
  • Run around flapping your wings like a chicken

If someone is embezzling from you, they are constantly looking for signs that they are about to get caught.  When a thief observes these signs, their thoughts turn to self-preservation, which includes things like destroying evidence.  “Evidence” for this purpose usually includes your practice’s financial and clinical records.

Unfortunately, many dentists have learned the hard way about the dangers from alerting a suspect prematurely.  If you have concerns about embezzlement, we recommend using our “Panic List of dos and don’ts that is available on our web store at www.dentalembezzlement.com/store and getting immediate professional assistance.

Lorraine Guth (with David Harris) — Don’t Shoot the Messenger!

 
David Harris co-wrote this article several years ago with his friend, Dental Consultant Lorraine Guth, in a great magazine called The Progressive Dentist.  It’s a great discussion about embezzlement and the dilemma that Lorraine faced.
Lorraine’s web site is www.guthdentalconsulting.com and her phone number is 636-273-9500
Lorraine Guth…
If you suspected your friend’s spouse of cheating, would you tell?  What if the signs of the deceit were fairly clear, but you couldn’t be sure? It’s a tough question, and most of us really don’t know how we would respond until actually faced with the decision.  As consultants, one of our most difficult challenges is bringing evidence forward when we believe a dentist-client is the victim of fraud.
Follow me as I recount an experience. It was the end of the first day of observation and coaching in Dr. Simpson’s practice.  I watched and learned from the doctor and team members.  Something didn’t seem right.  I began my mental organization of findings and started to dig deeper. Dr. Simpson’s favorite and most dedicated employee seemed to be holding back.