By Bryant Truitt, MBA, CCS, CFE and Barbara Freet, PHR
The following is the second part of our six part series on Spotting a Weasel – the Personality of a Dental Embezzler. The common thread in this group of three RED FLAGS are the outside influences that may motivate a team member to steal from the dental practice.
Any age, gender, nationality or relationship
This category of RED flags encompasses the demographics of the dental perpetrator. And, in fact, it demonstrates that there is no commonality among these weasels – they can be any age, either gender, any nationality or any relationship to the dentist and/or team.
Gender: Dental weasels are predominantly female, although not exclusively.
Age: Age has very little to do with who will become a dental perpetrator. Instead, their commonality has more to do with the outside pressures that lead them to make the decision to steal from the dental practice.
Nationality: Dental weasels come from all nationalities. Our experience is that nationality is regionalized to a particular area of the country. And, we often see one family member getting a job in a practice and then bringing in extended family members – sometimes undocumented family members. It’s best to have the guidance of a strong Human Resources entity to counsel you on all hiring, termination and benefits decisions. HR laws, regulations and rules are changing at an accelerated rate as a result of city, county, state and federal entities becoming highly politically motivated to control their current and future interest for the better good as they perceive it.
Relation: It is very common in the dental industry for small practices to employ family members. A dentist cannot feel safe just because a team member is handling delicate financial or patient care matters. Relationships range from children, to wives, to daughters- or sons-in-law – being a relative is not a guarantee that the team member will not steal from your practice.
We’d like to note here that it is critical your dental practice maintains complete personnel files. Those personnel files should be kept in a locked cabinet in the dentist’s office. All hiring, termination and other HR decisions MUST be the sole responsibility of the owner doctor with appropriate advice from HR & legal professionals. They should follow a well-defined process including starting with a complete job description, filling out an application and all paperwork such as tax forms, an I-9, etc.
Has family turmoil, crises, etc.
The number of reasons why weasels make their homes in dental practices is as diverse as the weasels themselves. External factors create the need to support a variety of personal circumstances ranging from:
- In one of our cases, we had the daughter of the dentist stealing money from the practice to fund her boyfriend’s drug habit.
- A case in Michigan involved an office manager whose husband was a medically retired postal worker. The office manager was stealing money to pay for her husband’s prescription drugs. She also stole to purchase two snowmobiles and a boat.
- In Texas we found a dental weasel stealing money to help pay for the mortgage on a second home.
- Another scheme we see on the rise involves illegal enterprises who are approaching dental employees to steal patient data. The team member is either blackmailed into complying or paid to provide the data.
Lifestyle – high maintenance, addictive
Similar to the family turmoil and crisis category, team members who have a high maintenance lifestyle and/or addictive personality are under the type of pressure that can result in a decision to steal from the practice to support their habits. There is cause for concern when you encounter a team member who:
- Just bought a new house or car or other expensive item but the spouse is out of work
- Has a gambling problem or drug / alcohol addiction
- Seems to always have new and expensive toys from expensive jewelry or handbags to electronics like new iPhones or iPads
A real Weasel from our files:
The weasel was working full-time in a California practice with an annual salary of $40,000. She was on public assistance and had a housing allowance and food stamps. Yet, according to her Facebook page, she was taking trips to Hawaii and led a high maintenance lifestyle. Conversely, the doctor had to cash in his 401(k) and take a second mortgage on his house to keep the practice running. In all, this weasel stole $135,000 from the practice over four years.
If you’re concerned you may have a weasel in your practice, we encourage you to call us for a free, no obligation 30 minute consultation at 210.241.6329.
Educating dentists on identifying embezzlers or fraudsters hiding out in their practices is our expertise. Contact us to speak at your next dental meeting or study club by sending an email to email@example.com or calling us at 210.241.6329.
Contributing author, Barbara Freet, PHR, is the President of Human Resource Advisors, a Human Resource consulting firm in Lafayette, CA. For more information, contact Barbara by calling 925.310.4824 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit her website at www.humanresourceadvisors.com.