How much do you know about embezzlement? How could it be impacting your dental practice? What are things to look for if you think someone is stealing from you? We sat down with David Harris from Prosperident, and discussed the opportunity he had to interview someone who had been caught embezzling, what to look for in embezzlers, and what to do about it!

This woman was a serial embezzler, she has been arrested a number of times and worked in 13 or 14 different dental offices. She probably embezzled from a good number of them. She was arrested and sentenced to two-year sentence. She was released early from prison under the condition of her release that she could never again work in a dental office. However, she could not seem to help herself and went to work for another practice. She once again was caught embezzling and sent back to prison.

She wanted to tell Mr. Harris her part of the story, because she felt they had vilified her in the news. She had a quick propensity to rationalize, in her eyes every one of the dentists she worked for were crooks. She decided that since in her eyes they were dishonest it would be okay for her to be dishonest too. In her eyes the dentists were being dishonest with patients about treatment and being dishonest with insurance companies. She rationalized that this made it okay to steal from the Doctor.

The leadership within the office can sometimes increase the risk for embezzlement. Dentist are not prepared for owning a business, they are not trained for that in school. The majority of dentists want to spend more time in the operatory and less time running the business. This opens it up for a front office person to take advantage of the doctor. Sometimes Dr's view delegation as completely handing everything over to the office manager, instead of delegating duties with oversight.

Life circumstance can often perpetuate embezzlement, very often an employee will have the intent to just borrow the money, with the intent to pay it back when things get better. Then when things don't get better and they haven't paid it back they are in the habit of stealing and dependent on that level of income.

The overwhelming number of employees are honest. Under appreciation is the biggest reason for embezzlement they view Doctor as well intentioned yet need the staff to function. They feel they are making everything in the office work and wait for the Doctor to come to them with appreciation and financial reward. When the Doctor doesn't show the appreciation they feel they deserve they begin to steal what they feel they deserve. Resentment is a key factor in someone stealing from the doctor
There are several ways to help prevent embezzlement. Maintain good oversight of employees, show appreciation to your staff recognize good work and reward it. Be a good leader, lead by example. As a good leader there is no bending or breaking rules, set good example for your employees.

There are hundreds of ways for someone to embezzle, it's difficult to prevent, it is much easier to recognize. Behavior is the biggest marker, someone who is embezzling won't want to take vacation, they come in even if they are sick, they are almost never gone. They come in early, they stay late often their behavior is misinterpreted as being a hard worker that is going above and beyond for the good of the Doctor. A lot of embezzlers will resist any update of software, they like the routine of what they are using and fear that what they are doing to steal will it be blocked if they are updated to a newer version. They will be the ones to say "don't waste the money on an update they just want to take your money etc."

Consultants are the biggest threat to embezzlers, they fight very hard not to have a consultant there. They will do everything possible to discourage hiring a consultant or if a consultant is hired they will do everything possible to get the consultant out of the practice.

If someone is currently in a situation where they are embezzling and want to set it straight the go to the doctor. Let them know you know they won't be able to continue working with them but this is what happened and you need to do what you can to make it right. Let them know it was a bad time in life and it got out of control. Most doctors will be more forgiving if they are approached with honesty and the consequences are most likely going to much less severe.

We are often given an overly simplistic model of how embezzlement works. If someone decides to embezzle they find a way. When someone has decided to steal they will find a way around systems that are in place, people will not give up just because the first way they try fails or they find that way blocked. Just like alarms are effective in stopping a thief from stealing. An alarm may prevent them from coming into your house but it won't stop them from going down the block until they find a house they can steal from. With embezzlement they don't move down the block, they don't quit and move on to new practice they figure out how to steal from you, they just move past one system on to another, they will keep trying until they are successful. What you can do is detect it early.

If you feel it is going on don't try to investigate it yourself the volume of data is too big and your tools are not adulate to investigate accurately, hire a professional that has the tools and knowledge. When you try to investigate yourself you run the risk of tipping off the employee and the lengths a suspect may go to protect themselves can be huge. Hire a professional to protect yourself and your practice.

Watch the full intervew with David Harris by clicking on the image below! 

David Harris and Darren Kaberna


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