Nine Ways To Avoid Getting Embezzled

by Jim Du Molin

I’m still sorting through the overwhelming (and fascinating!) response to our dental embezzlement survey that revealed 59% of you have discovered theft in your practices. (And the remaining 41% could well have been embezzled and never realized it!) It’s a major problem for anyone who goes into business for themselves.

When it happened to me, like so many of you, it was not just a betrayal by a business associate but by someone I’d considered a real friend. When I first discovered what had happened, of course I was furious with the associate, But over time, I’ve come to accept more of the responsibility myself. It wasn’t my fault, to be sure, but I do blame myself for trusting the wrong person.

There are some recurring themes to these stories. I’ve culled through dozens of dentists’ comments to this survey, as well as the vast collection of dental management knowledge in my own head (it’s a library in there, only not so well organized!) to come up with some guidelines for minimizing the risk of embezzlement at your practice.


  • Check references! Don’t limit yourself to the contacts provided by the prospective employee, especially if they’ve excluded any recent employers.
  • Know what to ask. Legal worries may keep past employers from telling you everything, so your questions should be somewhat indirect. My favorite: “Would you rehire this person again?”
  • Do background checks on employees who handle money. The time to know about someone’s theft conviction is before you hire them— that’s what background checks are for.
  • Check regularly for theft. You should have internal systems in place that will catch embezzlement early on. If you don’t, you could be losing money to theft right now and not even know it. It is essential that you regularly monitor your finances.
  • Don’t confuse business and friendship. It’s great to be friends or family with your business associates and employees, but don’t confuse that with your financial relationship. Don’t trust anyone blindly, especially not when it comes to business!
  • Don’t hesitate to prosecute. Stealing is not okay; throw the book at them! It sends a clear message to all employees, and it helps future employers know who not to hire.
  • If you’ve been embezzled, try to recover your money. Especially if it’s a large amount of money, you’re unlikely to recover it all from the thief. If your insurance won’t cover the loss, you may be able to recover your money elsewhere: for example, from the bank that cashed the fraudulent checks.
  • Get insurance! The Washington state dentists whose receptionist stole $1.9 million didn’t have insurance to cover that loss. They’ve stayed in business, but it’s set back their retirement plans by ten years.
  • Stay in charge of your own finances. Listen, I’ve heard it a hundred times! If the mail boy understands the computer system better than anyone else in the office – if you don’t know what your CPA is doing – if you never check the books your office manager keeps – if your employees understand your finances better than you do – you have a problem!



Have I left anything out? Share your own tips for avoiding disaster by posting your comments!

Jim Du Molin

About Jim Du Molin

+Jim Du Molin is a leading Internet marketing expert for dentists in North America. He has helped hundreds of doctors make more money in their practices using his proven Internet marketing techniques.


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