THEFT IN DENTISTRY – Early Warning Signals

Every dentist will experience theft or embezzlement during the course of their career. Because dentists are so trusting, seldom have safeguards in place, and they do not like conflict…this sets them up as easy prey!

Internal dishonesty has many faces; but whatever form it takes, some deviation from normal patterns appear. It is to these deviations, these signals, that a business owner must be sensitive to and must react.


  • Merchandise or property missing from boxes or containers.
  • Merchandise or property in unusual places, such as near an exit, in restrooms or in a concealed location.
  • Merchandise or property wrapped in a package or box for no good reason.
  • Merchandise or property in the wrong box.
  • Merchandise or property inside the trash.
  • Ladders, fixtures or piled up boxes located in a position giving access to a window.
  • Something out of position or missing between night and morning.
  • Merchandise wrappings or labels found in restrooms, locker rooms, trash cans etc.
  • Critical Documents found in the trash or discarded elsewhere.
  • Repeated virus or malware found on an employee’s computer.
  • Employee who brings in and uses personal computer or external drives to work alongside workstation.


  • Locks seemingly locked, but are actually unlocked.
  • Keys and pass cards missing or found in possession of unauthorized persons.
  • Key that does not fit a lock for which it was intended (indicating that the lock may have been switched).
  • Broken locks.
  • An employee who uses other alarm passwords or passcards.


  • Discrepancies between inventory records and physical counts.
  • Controlled documents missing or out of sequence.
  • Excessive number of “Voided” documents.
  • Discrepancies in cash funds.
  • Daily bank deposit does not correspond with the receipts.
  • Bad checks that are frequently accepted or approved by a particular employee.
  • Frequent need to replace equipment, not consistent with normal wear.
  • Unusual rise in consumption of supply items.
  • Erasures, changes, pencil entries on documents which are not supposed to be altered.


  • Double talk or inconsistencies by an employee who is explaining discrepancies or “errors”.
  • Violent temper or other unpleasant behavior which tends to discourage people from asking questions.
  • Symptoms of a drug user such as glassy eyes, incoherent actions.
  • Heavy gambling on horses, cards, numbers, sports etc.
  • Constantly borrowing money from other employees or asking for cash advances.
  • Disgruntled, dislikes boss or company and complains about being underpaid and overworked.
  • Admission of theft from a former employer.
  • Abnormal fear of or antagonism toward authority, leadership or executive personnel.
  • Possessing illegal knife, gun, or any type of weapon and bringing it to work.
  • Threats to one employee by another.
  • Never takes time off or vacation, or comes in during vacation or day off.
  • Concealed family relationships among employees.


  • Secretive conversations among employees.
  • Coming in too early or staying too late for no good reason.
  • Frequent errors due to “carelessness” or deliberate intent.
  • Frequent short cuts in procedures to “expedite” procedures.
  • Habitual carrying of large purse, gym bags, backpacks or bags.
  • Coming out of restrooms or secluded areas with clothes bulging.
  • Attempting to distract or hold the attention of a manager for no good reason.
  • Signaling by hand, whistle, etc. when manager approaches.
  • Signing another employee’s name, initials or using someone else’s password or user ID.
  • Return to work area after others have left to retrieve something forgotten or for some other pretext.
  • Complaints by other employees that personal belongings are being stolen.
  • Presence of employee in an area where he/she has no legitimate business.
  • Punching time cards or records for other employees.


  • Anonymous phone calls or letters concerning theft.
  • Unusually friendly relationship among employees and such outsiders as UPS or delivery drivers, repairmen, trash collectors or other suppliers and vendors.
  • Many customers always dealing with one employee and refusing to deal with anyone else.
  • Company property being sold at swap meets, flea markets, craigslist or other online sites, etc.
  • Wage garnishments or expenses reducing wages to levels that cannot properly allow an employee to live at that low income level.

These “signals” do not necessarily prove the existence of internal theft. They only point to the possibility of such theft occurring.

Never accuse anyone of theft without proof. But keep alert to these signals and discuss your suspicions with a professional investigator or security consultant.

Information provided by:
Alan Saquella, CPP
Alan is available to do seminars, lectures and consultations.
He can be reached at
Cell: 602-694-1581

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About the Author

Steve Anderson is a General Contractor and Owner of Denco Dental Construction, Inc. He is also an author, public speaker and CE instructor. Denco has built well over 1000 new dental offices throughout Arizona. Denco is the only General Contractor endorsed by the Arizona Dental Association.
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