60% – not me!

If you search the Internet for “dental embezzlement statistics”, you’ll find many publications claiming that 60% of dentists will be embezzled during their career.

My own experience from conducting hundreds of embezzlement investigations since 2004 agrees with this statistic.

It’s a fact, dentistry is one of the most embezzled professions.

Let’s put the 60% probability into perspective.

Assuming that the average length of a dentists career is 30 years, and the probability of a dentist being embezzled during their career is 60%; then at any given time 2% of dentists are being embezzled. (60% / 30) = 2%

Stated differently, this means that 2% (1 in 50 dentists) are currently being embezzled. Surprised? Think about that next time you are in a meeting room full of dentists, look around and do the math.

To gain a full perspective of the risk and impact, we will need to consider not just the risk – but the average dental embezzlement loss.  Again, is you Google the statistics, you’ll see the average loss for an embezzled dentist is $110,000.

Now let’s the 2% risk and $110,000 loss into perspective.

For illustration purposes only.

Imagine that you just completed working the first year of a 30 year career as an private practice dentist.

Sha-zam! I appear magically on your doorstep and demand that you play my game.

In fact, you must play my game, because as a dentist you do not have a choice.

The rules of the game are simple.

With me, I have brought a paper bag with 50 one-dollar bills inside.

1 of the 50 bills is marked with red ink and the other 49 bills are unmarked. (1 in 50 bills = 2%)

Next, I ask you put your hand in the bag and pick a single bill. No peeking!

  • If you draw an unmarked bill, you “win” the game and the unmarked bill is placed back in the bag to be used again the following year..
  • If you draw the marked bill from the bag, then you “lose” and must pay me $110,000. (this is the average, in reality your loss may be lower or higher)

A year later, I will show up again and as you to pick a 1 dollar bill from the same bag.

This game will end when one of the conditions are met:

  • you draw an unmarked bill from the bag each year for 30 consecutive years and retire. Yay!
  • in any given year, you draw a marked bill from the bag lose – and pay me $110,000.

If you were given a choice, would you even play this game? Hell no!

But the fact is, dentists overall play a similar game every working day of their career.

While as a group, dentists have a 1 in 50 chance of embezzlement, individual dentists risk will vary. Those who take positive steps – such as implementing internal controls or having keeping a watchful eye for red flags for their practice –  can dramatically reduce their risk.

Do not become willfully blind and ignore your intuition or gut feelings when confronted with the possibility of embezzlement. Think clearly and skeptically, avoid feelings of fear, uncertainty and doubt;

Some dentists fear that they may wrongfully accuse an employee of stealing and decide to take a “wait and see” approach; believing that if embezzlement is occurring, something will happen to confirm or deny their hypothesis. Those dentists usually end up waiting a long, long time.  Which further adds to their uncertainty, doubt and procrastination. Read my post

My advice – when you think something “fishy” is going on in your practice, contact me for a free consult.

Don’t let fear, uncertainty and doubt cause you to procrastinate and let your concerns fall through the cracks.

Consults are free, confidential and no pressure!

If you have questions, or need help in implementing any of the suggestions this article, please contact me for assistance.

William Hiltz, CEO Hiltz & Associates