The Profile of Dental Practice Embezzlers – Part I

How can you tell that one of your dental team members is an embezzler?  Does the embezzler show up wearing a black hat like an outlaw in an old Western?  Will you find the embezzler napping on the job until a patient shows up to pay for treatment in cash?


One of the most challenging parts about spotting an embezzler in your dental practice is basing your assessment on job performance.  Embezzlers are typically high performers who show up early and stay late.  They rarely if ever take vacation, and it’s common to see them working through lunch.  Embezzlers often accept more and more responsibility, doing whatever they can to concentrate all billing, payment posting, deposit slip preparation, and bookkeeping duties into their job description.  And you often shift these duties to this high performing team member because you trust this person.

When an embezzler earns your trust, she has you right where she wants you because she knows you are often not paying attention to daily and month reports from your practice software, you are not regularly reviewing bank or credit card statements, and you do not typically look at what is reported for payroll.  You may even openly confess that you have no interest in the business side of dentistry; you just want to treat patients.  Few statements excite an embezzler more than that.


Dentists are especially vulnerable to embezzlement.  According to David Harris, an expert on dental practice embezzlement, dentists have a 60% probability of being embezzled from during their careers with an average embezzlement of approximately $100,000.  Let me reframe these sobering statistics a different way: if you knew there was a 60% chance you would lose $100,000 of your hard-earned money unless you made a few easy-to-implement course corrections, what would you do?  Hopefully you would choose to take action.

Taking action means reserving ten minutes most days to review your daily reports, looking over your bank and credit card statements along with your payroll reports to make sure everything looks right, and insisting on cross training team members to ensure no one person handles all or most of the money-related job duties.  We will explore the steps you can take in more detail in next week’s blog.

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