Post your comments about dental embezzlement to our blog Read the dental embezzlement survey press release.
In this poll, we asked dentists: Has your dental practice ever been embezzled?
Quick, check the cash register! The majority of dentists report having been embezzled. Fifty-nine percent of dentists
in our poll responded, “Yes, I have discovered theft in my practice.” Only 41% replied, “I’m not sure: I have never been able to prove an embezzlement took place.”
Read stories about embezzlement:
- Editorial: Is It Easy To Embezzle from Dental Practices?
- Editorial: Embezzlement Ridiculously Rampant in Dental Practices
- Editorial: Nine Ways To Avoid Getting Embezzled
- Son-in-Law Buys Dental Practice with Money Embezzled by Mistress
- Tales of Dental Embezzlement: Teenage Mail Boy Stole $110,000
- More Tales of Dental Embezzlements
- Dental Embezzler Goes on to Steal $1.5M from the State of Georgia
General dentists were slightly more likely than specialists to report that their practices had suffered from embezzlement.
Male dentists are somewhat more likely to have been embezzled (or, at least, to discover they'd been embezzled) than their female counterparts.
Geographic location did not seem to affect the likelihood of embezzlement, although suburban dentists reported less theft than did their rural and urban colleagues.
For state-by-state results, just click on this interactive map. (Flash required)
Office Manager Busted for $700,000 Embezzlement
- “My office manager (of course) was setting aside insurance checks, then picking out cash that matched the amount of the checks. The checks were never deposited into the patients' accounts, so the bank deposit balanced. She did this for almost 10 years, for a total of at least $700,000. Her litigation is currently pending. Because I had two other people count the cash, I have excellent evidence against her. The insurance accounts past due eventually became overwhelming and she was finally caught.” (Michigan
Dentist's Insurance Checks Pay Receptionist’s Shopping Bills
- "We had a receptionist who was taking some of the checks were sent to us from insurance companies (payable to our office). She was signing the back of the checks herself and using the money to pay her various debts — as if we weren’t going to see the canceled checks with her signature on the back paying her favorite department store bill! She apparently had done this at previous doctors’
offices, including one I knew. He told me later that they were investigating her on similar charges, but his attorney told him he could not
discuss it with anyone while they were building a case against her. Thanks a lot for the heads up when we called for a reference!" (Texas dentist)
Bank Teller Accepts Fraudulent Checks 186 Times
- “My newly-hired office manager took my office deposits in locked bank bag to bank. Away from the office and in secret,span class=”bold”>she took key to locked bag and removed cash. In addition, she took patients’ checks; with her ink-stamp, she repeatedly stamped over my endorsement, showing the her name as the endorser. The bank teller gave her cash for my checks— 186 times from the
same teller. I successfully went after her and she received 13 months in prison. She got out of prison and was hired by the state of Georgia, again handling money. There she allegedly embezzled $1.5M. She was caught and received 5 years imprisonment.” (Georgia dentist)
Yes, Even Dentists Have To Pay Taxes
- "I knew an oral and maxillofacial surgeon whose office manager/CPA did not pay payroll taxes for two years! Instead, he took some of the money for himself and gave some of it to the doctor. The doctor did not know any better; he thought he was just doing really well! The eventual IRS offer was $270K. It could have been much higher. The office manager/CPA left before the problem was discovered. He eventually confessed when the doctor promised not to prosecute him.” (California oral surgeon)
Dental Embezzler Kills Self Upon Discovery
- “I discovered that my long-time financial coordinator was filing fraudulent insurance claims and diverting monies into her own personal account. Cash payments from patients were also skimmed. Upon confronting her, firing her and informing her that legal action was going to be pursued; she committed suicide at her home. She left a young daughter and loving husband. Very,
very sad story.” (Michigan dentist)
The same story pops up again and again.
- "The front desk was giving receipts with less monies paid than the actual amount paid by patients, and the patients never noticed it." (Massachusetts dentist)
- "My office manager was holding back insurance and patient checks and later depositing them in place of cash payments to make the deposit balance with daily receipts." (Tennessee dentist)
- "My assistant deposited my checks in her personal bank account." (California dentist)
- "A former front desk/business assistant was stealing cash. When a patient paid cash, she would note it for a lesser amount than what was received. She also posted the treatment on that patient at less than what it was so the patient's account would balance out to zero. She got away with $1,200, but repaid $1,000 of the stolen cash." (Texas dentist)
- "We thought we had great policies to stop embezzlement. However, our office manager would take cash payments and keep the money. She would obviously have to enter the payment into the computer. Then she would lower a big bulk insurance check by the amount of the cash payment (often spread out over several patients) and use slightly bigger insurance adjustments to balance out those patients accounts. This way the bank deposit total matched the dental software total. Only a line item review of the actual bank deposit revealed the theft. She got away with about 10K." (Utah dentist)
- "My office manager billed insurance for her family with benefits to go directly to patients for work that was never done." (Illinois dentist)
A handful of dentist were reasonably confident that no one had embezzled from them.
- “I highly doubt it. I carefully monitor all aspects of the finances. No employees have access to the checkbook. I post and balance all checks coming in to the office. Cash is rarely handled.” (Minnesota dentist)
- “I control the checkbook and make the deposits, and monthly review income and deposits. This gives great peace of mind!” (California dentist)
- “I doubt it. I open my own mail 98% of the time, record the checks on my deposit slips and run audits on the transactions that occur in my office." (New Jersey dentist)
Employees with addictions are the worst kind.
- “Most trusted employee with video poker gambling addiction. Made full restitution when discovered.” (Louisiana oral surgeon)
- “A trusted and loved assistant began using meth and began stealing money from the practice as she was able; mostly petty cash, cash payments and party funds. Her drug problem was finally discovered and she was let go. We really didn’t realize who was stealing until she was gone. The theft was relatively minor, but the betrayal was huge.” (Texas dentist)
Theft of tooth-whitening supplies is more common than you might think.
- “A dental assistant who worked for another doctor who shared space with me was stealing my impression trays, alginate and bleaching tray material and solution and making bleaching trays out of her home after hours (and charging!)” (Ohio dentist)
- “A receptionist who could take impressions made bleaching trays and dispensed bleach to her boyfriend while I was not in the office.
She left the models out in the lab and we discovered a package of bleach missing. She was given the opportunity to resign or be prosecuted for
practicing dentistry without a license. She chose to resign.” (Ohio dentist)
Sometimes employees steal time.
- “The only embezzlement/theft/fraud I am aware of is time.” (North Carolina dentist)
- “I do know is that time has been stolen from my practice by people coming in late, leaving early and using work time for personal things (which has gotten worse with the Internet).” (California dentist)
- "I once had to fire a front office employee for 'creatively scheduling' overtime for herself as well as participating in other suspicious activities that unfortunately added up to a lot of lost revenue for my practice. While my accountant and I couldn't turn up any actual proof of embezzlement, it still wouldn't surprise me. The biggest mistake I made was not knowing my front office business as well as that employee. Now I keep much tighter control up front even though it means more work for me. I shudder when I hear other dentists tell me that they have no idea what their front office staff does but they trust them enough to let them work unsupervised. It is never wise to know less about the financial end of the business than your employees!!!" (California dentist)
It's a good idea to monitor for theft.
- “Our internal controls revealed it early on and the employee was confronted and made restitution." (Washington dentist)
- “Had it happen twice, both times we caught it before it got too big, about $2,000, but not pleasant experience.” (California dentist)
- “In my 24-year career it has happened two times. Both times my systems proved effective. The thefts were discovered in less than a week's time from occurrence, and the employee confessed.” (Arizona dentist)
How do you know who to trust?
- "My best front desk employee in my 25 years of practice and trusted friend was the person that had her fingers in the till. One simple discovery of dishonesty was the tip-off. Honesty is the only trait I look for when I hire new employees; the rest is trainable." (Minnesota dentist)
- "How do you look for embezzling? I've heard that it is usually very agreeable and apparently competent people who seem almost irreplaceable that embezzle. I have those people working for me and they seem trustworthy." (Michigan dentist)
- "Sometimes if they seem too dedicated (last one to leave or first one in), you should at least raise an eyebrow." (North Carolina dentist)
Sometimes the authorities are no help at all.
- "$50,000 by a family member, and the police did not even charge her with a crime even though we turned her in for having written 40-50 checks to herself averaging over $1000 each." (Georgia dentist)
- "And the cops said that I had to practically stand there and watch her take the money from the till, then put it in her pocket. Lazy creeps!" (New Mexico dentist)
For Heaven's sake, check people's references!
- "Front office employee pocketed cash payments and kept double books. There appeared to be a sharp drop-off in cash coming in, so I opened our audit file and found the additions and deletions. We were reimbursed for our losses by the bonding company but not for the time spent going through and double-checking the accounts off all people who paid cash during that six-month period. The perpetrator had worked for me for two years before she started embezzling. I later found out that she obtained a new job receiving charitable contributions for a large corporation. No one ever called me for a reference." (Indiana dentist)
- "An employee took about $13k during a 12-month period. Police are working the case now. She has since resigned and is working for a new dentist that never called to check her references." (Kentucky dentist)
- "We prosecuted her and she was convicted of a class D felony and placed on probation for 5 years. We were fortunate to have insurance to recover the $30,000." (Kentucky dentist)
- "Our receptionist took a Delta Dental check and tried to cash it in a check cashing place. The owner notified me, and she was fired." (New Jersey dentist)
There are more kinds of theft than you could ever count…
- "Gold, stamps, crediting patients accounts, writing their name on checks from patients, taking cash." (Missouri dentist)