Fighting the Fraud Tidal Wave
It seems as though fraud is everywhere in the news today – you hear about mail fraud schemes that bilk thousands if not millions of dollars from innocent victims all over the world. There are the internet scams where someone you know very well is stranded in a third world country, flat broke or a victim of a theft and needs money now. Chances are you personally know someone who has lost hard earned money or a large part of their savings to one of these schemes.
Sadly enough, there is fraudulent activity happening just as often in dental offices across America. When we begin introductions in our classes and seminars, there is always at least one or two that will begin introductions with “I began working in this office, following an embezzlement…” It always stings because I know firsthand how painful it is to the Practice Owner and the entire team. It happened in my office and sadly, I am the one that discovered it. It was so traumatic that it became my personal mission to find a way to fight fraud from happening in as many offices as I can.
Although there is no automatic foolproof method to prevent embezzlement, there are steps that can be taken to thwart or deter fraudulent activity.
First and foremost, if your gut tells you that something doesn’t feel right, then listen to your gut. Contact me immediately and let’s check it out. Think of this as decay in a tooth – time will not heal it; it will only get worse until it’s screaming at you in pain at 3am.
Second, if an owner wants to counteract fraud, start from the top. Create a Standard of Conduct and be the example of that standard. This standard includes everything from insurance, to scheduling, to presenting treatment and of course, handling all monies. If the Dr takes money out of petty cash for personal use, this is the example being set as the acceptable standard. If the Dr allows a build-up to be charged out as a filling because it will help out the patient by getting paid through insurance, that Dr is setting the standard of conduct. If an employee perceives that ‘working the system’ or skirting the rules is acceptable, then the employer is allowing fraudulent activity to occur. Cheating is cheating and should never be tolerated. Cheating in any way, shape or form is not acceptable and anyone caught doing anything adverse to the standards has automatic consequences.
Finally, know whom you are hiring by checking references. We often see this process delegated to someone else in the office. Our rule of thumb is: whoever is signing the checks, calls all references and speak to the person that signed the paycheck at the previous office. Make it a habit to talk employer to employer.
There are behavioral habits that are well documented and I subscribe to those as well; namely, everyone in the office has to take their vacation time out of the office, whoever balances the daily deposit is not the person taking the deposit to the bank, monthly reconciliation of bank and credit card statements.
An additional step that you might want to consider is a program that we have created: Risk Analysis & Monitoring (RAM). This begins with a review of past trends to understand the systems in place with the office. The analysis includes a deep dive into the inner workings of a practice’s financial habits. This evaluation will typically draw out all inconsistencies and misappropriations. Following the initial analysis, a written report is shared with the practice owner containing expert recommendations and training where needed. Routine monitoring of the practice’s systems follows throughout the year, again with written reports of all findings and recommendations.
RAM has been beneficial for practice owners to know that someone is watching, as well as helping those responsible for the finances of the practice, know that they are following the best practices rule. If you would like to add this ever-important step to your fight against the fraud tidal wave, please contact me at: Janice@GTSgurus.com. Let’s discuss how you can strengthen your arsenal and avoid becoming a statistic.
Unfortunately, fraud is as prevalent in the dental office as it is in the real world. With enhanced actions in prevention and some outside eyes, your office can be that much closer to making sure that your money is going into the bank and not in someone else’s pocket.
Janice Janssen, RDH, CFE, Consultant
At age 14, Janice Janssen got an after-school job working for her dentist. Twenty-something years later, she is the co-founder of Global Team Solutions and an expert in practice consulting.
Besides hands-on experience, Janice has gained professional recognition for her hard work and commitment to excellence. She is co-author of OMG! Office Management Guide, the “bible” used in GTS training workshops. She is a member of the Academy of Dental Management Consultants (ADMC), and is a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), which positions her as an expert in educating dentists to deter fraud and embezzlement in their practice.
Janice can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org