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Conversation with a dentist – “the checkbook”

This was taken from a client “assessment” interview I conducted about 5 years ago.

This dentist suspected his office manager was stealing.  His suspicions were correct, he just did not know it yet. In this part of the assessment interview, I’m asking him about check writing protocols. (and making sure to ask the “right” questions )

Me: Do you have any concerns that your office manager could access money from your bank account?

Dentist: No, that’s not possible. I keep my checkbook at home, and I write all my own checks. 

Me: So, do you pay all your bills by check?

Dentist: No, I use both credit card and checks to pay my office expenses. When I write a check, I always have the invoice in front of me and write the invoice number on the check as well.

Me: Okay, that sounds good so far. Tell me, when you write a check to pay for a practice expense, do you personally put the check you wrote in the mail, or do you give it to your office manager to mail it for you.

Dentist: I give the checks to my office manager for her to mail.

Me: Does the office manager ever come to you from time to time and ask you to write a check; say for a miscellaneous office expense, or a patient refund?

Dentist: Yes, she does.

Me: About how often does this occur?

Dentist: Probably six times a month or so.

Me: What were the checks for?

Dentist: Mostly patient and insurance refunds. A few years ago, I started doing more large cases, so we started collecting fees up front. Sometimes the patient or insurance company will overpay, so we need to refund them.

Me: How large are those refund checks?

Dentist: Oh, usually between $400 and $1000.

Me: So, you write refund checks to patients and insurance companies in the range of $2500-$6000 every month.

Dentist: Yeah, that sounds about right

Me: This doesn’t sound quite right to me. It’s possible that your office manager could divert checks that you wrote  for refunds and expenses for her own benefit.  I’ll look into this.

A few days later…

I received the information that I requested from my client’s bank and confirmed that nearly all of the refund checks that the dentist wrote over the last two years were deposited in the office manager’s bank account.

The office manager duped the dentist into thinking the checks were for bona fide refunds, when in fact they were completely fictitious.

This scheme had been going on for over two years, and until this client was asked the “right” questions, he felt safe that the money in his bank could not be accessed by anyone other than himself.

If you feel you’re not asking the right questions, contact me, and I’ll help.

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