Protect Yourself from Embezzlement

Embezzlement is a serious problem that continues to grow in the dental industry. Depending on the surveys that have been done by multiple sources, the average amount ranges from $20K -$900K. Highs into the millions have been reported. Here are some examples of how it can happen and suggestions to prevent a loss.

How it can Happen:
1. Payroll checks – hours not worked, vacation & sick days, salary increase, and/or “ghost” employee.
2. Adjustments – with payments received and/or expense items.
3. Expense reimbursement – Non-legitimate expenses
4. Patient Payments – adjusted or not entered, and checks being cashed.
5. Practice “Dummy” Account – part of checks to deposit going to a second unauthorized checking account. There are thousands of ways this can be done.
6. Cash payments – reduce the charge amount in the patient’s record but charge the accurate amount.
7. Write offs – post the charges, but keep cash.
8. Refunds – written to “fake” or “test” patients.
9. Computer – payments backdated and/or deleted.
10. Vendor/Supplier Payments – pay vendor twice and then use refund.

1.  Be the Boss and owner of your practice. No one that is directly involved with your practice on a daily basis is immune to this problem. As an owner, the more involvement you have and strategic systems that are in place prohibit embezzlement.
2.  Know your practice software. Reach out to a practice consulting company to show you how to engage in specific reports to ensure proper handling of adjustments, payments and credits.
3.  Perform audits. Audits should be routinely done and can be password protected in the practice management software to ensure no tampering. Front office team members should not be able to run these reports.
4.  Cross train employees. Make sure all front desk duties are able to be done by all of your office team.
5.  Disperse duties to more than one person. Don’t let the office manger or one specific person open the mail, make the deposits, or hold petty cash.
6.  All adjustments should be authorized daily by you, the owner. A report should be reviewed by the owner daily.
7.  Make sure embezzlement is covered clearly in your employee handbook. If you do not have an employee handbook reach out to a consulting company right away.
9.  Do not have the idea or thoughts that it couldn’t happen to you. Remember over 50% of dentist are embezzled and many that were embezzled thought it would never happen to them.
10.  Surround yourself with dental professionals. If you do not have a thorough monitoring system in place, talk to a consulting company to implement a monitoring system.

Disclaimer: Materials that you will read were prepared for general information purposes and are not intended as legal, tax or accounting advice or as recommendations to engage in any specific transaction. Please consult your own counsel, accountant or other advisor regarding your specific situation.

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