Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 14) – The Carnage Begins

Well Diary,

Betty Bookkeeper HeadshotToday was the day… the FIRST day that I stole from the company.  Today, I forged my first check with the owner’s signature. I would have done it a couple days ago – as soon as I found out the owner doesn’t open the bank statements, and in fact expects me to do it – but the owner suddenly changed his pattern. Instead of staying out of the office, like he had done every day of the first nine days, he decided to stay in the office to “take care of some things.” Since I wasn’t expecting it, I decided to wait to see what it was he needed to take care of. Luckily, it wasn’t anything that had to do with me or the books.

Well, even if it did have to do with the books, he wouldn’t have found anything. I’m doing a very good job right now. After all, I have to prove my worth somehow.

I wrote the check for $100. I know, it’s not much, but it’s a start. Just something to see if he notices that I stole it. I’m sure he won’t notice since I took the check out of sequence. But if he does, I can say it’s for the Petty Cash Box that he doesn’t have. If he doesn’t notice… well then, I’m going to suggest he GET a Petty Cash Box. After all… “it makes MY job so much easier if we can have cash around for emergencies.” (If this was a video, then right now is where I would do the evil laugh…)

And there’s no worries about the bank clearing it.  Banks don’t have enough time to check every signature.

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To Stop The Carnage Caused by Forgery:

Unfortunately, when superhero_edited_no_maska bookkeeper forges a check, the only way a Small Business Owner is going to know is if they open the bank statements first.  And…the general rule is: He who opens the bank statement is the one who can hide or destroy the checks. So if an SBO opens the bank statement, they will get a chance to find the forged check before it can mysteriously disappear.

When yo do open the bank statement, check that all signatures are your signatures.  Take a second look at anything that was signed by a signature stamp or a doesn’t look like your signature.  Also, look for check numbers that are obviously way out of sequence or missing a check number because there’s a good possibility that it’s a forged check.

If your bookkeeper did cash a forged check, contact your bank and inform them that the check was forged.  Sometimes, they will be able to pull the funds from whatever bank account they were deposited in and put those funds back in your account.  But – more than likely – once the check has cleared, you can’t get the money back.  So be vigilant in opening the bank statement BEFORE your bookkeeper does.

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Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: A Warning Sign

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Betty Bookkeeper HeadshotToday sucked… and I mean, straight up sucked.

There I was, minding my own business, when in walks the boss with a receipt. On the receipt are stamped the letters C.O.D. It was from one of our vendors that apparently hasn’t been paid in so long, they’ve changed our account from credit to C.O.D.

“What is this, Betty?” the boss asked me. “Why has ABC Hardware turned our credit account into a Cash-on-Delivery account? I’ve been with them for five years, and they’re saying we’re three months behind in our payments. I told Bill – the boss over there – that it can’t be right. We’ve never missed a payment with them, but their bookkeeper swears we’re late. What’s going on?”

I looked at him as innocently as I could, and shrugged. “It has to be a mistake, Boss. I’m certain we’re current.”

“Can you call them and fix this, please?”

“Sure. No problem.”

Then, the boss practically tosses the bill at me and storms out of my office.

I picked up the phone line, figuring he’d probably be watching the extension from his office to make sure I called, but I didn’t bother dialing the number right away. I knew the truth – we were behind. I should have made that payment a while ago, but I knew if I sent it, the checking account would go in the hole. Since I wasn’t quite sure how far behind we were, I figured I’d better check.

Typing a few things into the computer, I saw that we were about $1,200 behind. That wasn’t too bad. So I did actually call the bookkeeper over at ABC Hardware. When she got on the phone, I said, “Hey, Jane. How’s it going?”

“Betty,” she said coldly.

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A few choice words ran through my head, but of course I kept them to myself. “Listen, Jane. I just got reamed by my boss about some notice he got from your company. He said you made our account a C.O.D. account. What’s up with that?”

“Well, Betty, you’re company’s late in paying us. And it’s not the first time.”

“Well, Jane… I just mailed a check for $1,200 a couple days ago. Have you checked your mail today?”

“’The check’s in the mail?’ Really, Betty? You’ve used that one before. And then we never got the check. So my boss decided to make your account C.O.D. from now on. Besides, you owe us $3,100 – not $1,200.”

No kidding. “Are you sure about that? I only have invoices for $1,200.”

“I’m sure. In fact, I emailed you and faxed you hard copies of the invoices several times over the last couple months.”

The temptation to hang up on her was irresistible, but I didn’t. “Well, I’m sorry, but I don’t know what happened to the invoices. And I did send you $1,200 just a couple days ago. So, what’s it going to take to forget this whole C.O.D. thing?”

“If you want the account to revert back to a credit account, you need to pay the balance in full immediately. That’s the only way.”

“Okay. I can do that. I’ll put a check in the mail today.”

“No, that’s alright. I’ll come and pick it up.”

Of course you will, you snotty… “Okie dokie. How about five o’ clock? I can have a check for you by then.” And the boss will be gone by four, so he’ll never see the real balance due.

“Fine, see you at five.” Then, she actually hung up on me.

Long story short, I had to scramble and figure out a way to pay $3,100 without letting the boss know what was going on. It took me a bit, but I finally figured out that I could write a balance transfer check from one of the new credit cards I opened in the company’s name…a credit card that goes to the Company P.O. Box the boss doesn’t know about.

I told the boss it was just a misunderstanding, and that Jane actually found our payment in the mail that day…so there should be no problem from now on. The boss went back to thinking I’m a genius, and Jane showed up at 4:45 – Eager twit.

All I have to say now is: Man, that was a close call!

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Why This is a Warning Sign

superhero_edited_no_maskA lot of small business owners don’t realize it, but when a credit account is changed to a C.O.D. account, that’s usually a BIG warning sign that “the business is suffering”. (Notice, I’m NOT saying anyone’s embezzling…this is quite simply a sign that the business needs to handle their finances better, and possibly their cash better as well.) Most vendors that offer credit to their preferred clients are loathe to take that line of credit away if it means they might lose a business as a customer. Usually, the only reason a vendor would change a credit account is if there is a history of serious delinquency or bounced checks. So the minute any vendor demands a COD payment, realize that your company’s credit history is on shaky ground and become proactive.

How to Know for Sure

Should the above scenario happen to your company, don’t go running to your bookkeeper first. Instead, ask the bookkeeper at your vendor’s company to print up a Statement of at least 90 days to 6 months so that you have a record of EXACTLY how your bookkeeper has been paying them. Look it over and take note of how far apart the payments are. Are there any amounts that were subtracted and added back on? (That could be the sign of a bounced check.) Most credit accounts require a minimum of one payment a month, while some require more. Ask the other bookkeeper what the terms are for your company, and THEN approach your bookkeeper.

Before you make any accusations, however, there is one more thing you can do to double check your bookkeeper. When you have the Vendor’s Statement for your company in hand, ask your bookkeeper for the last three bank statements. Also, ask for a “Check Detail” listing all of the checks for the same three months. A good bookkeeper will know exactly where those bank statements are and will be able to give you both documents in less than 10 minutes. (The key is to ask for this information immediately and DO NOT let your bookkeeper put you off ‘til the end of the day…they can cover their tracks if given too much time.) Then, when you have the Vendor Statement, the Check Detail, and the Bank Statements in your hand, do a quick check for the following:

  • Highlight the check numbers listed on your Vendor Statement.
  • Find the corresponding check numbers on your Check Detail printout. From here, you will be able to tell exactly when the check was supposed to have been printed and then mailed. The dates should be a week apart if the vendor is in town…up to 10 days if the vendor. (Of course, the time it takes to cash a check also depends on how big the vendor is.)
  • Now check the bank statements for the same check numbers. Do the dollar amounts actually match, and when were the checks cashed? Sometimes, the other company may hold onto the check for any number of reasons, but it will give you a good idea of how long the check cashing process takes with THAT particular vendor…and how long your bookkeeper may be holding checks.

Your Bookkeeper May Be Embezzling if…

Now, before I tell you exactly what to look for as far as embezzling goes, let me just say one thing. This does NOT 100% mean that your bookkeeper is embezzling. There can be reasons for any discrepancies you find. However, if you do find the following discrepancies, don’t be stupid and sit on your hands either. Ask an accountant or an independent bookkeeping company for help immediately. Make a backup of your bookkeeping program without the bookkeeper’s knowledge, and put that aside…(you may need it later).

And whatever else you do… DO NOT…I repeat… DO NOT confront your bookkeeper with what you find. If your bookkeeper IS an embezzler, the MINUTE you accuse them of anything, they will WIPE their hard drive, and your bookkeeping program, and they will destroy any evidence of embezzlement you may have in your office. Be certain first, and then do a cold hard lockout. The minute you KNOW – without a doubt – that they’re embezzling, DO NOT let them back in the office, and disconnect the bookkeeping computer from the internet. (You don’t want them logging on remotely to destroy your bookkeeping program.)

  • To know if your bookkeeper might be embezzling, look at the Check Run and look at the Bank Statements. Do the check numbers and amounts match? Bookkeepers can always go in and change the check names and amounts later on (which they will do if they want to show the boss an inflated bank balance), but the Bank Statements will give them away every time.
  • Another thing to pay attention to…are the checks being cashed months after they were written? If they are, then your bookkeeper was sitting on them for some reason (probably to make sure they didn’t bounce)…but keep in mind, YOU may have told your bookkeeper to hold those checks. That happens a lot, so don’t make any accusations unless you’re sure you did NOT ask the checks to be held.

Again, this is just a warning sign, but it’s a good sign to look for. Do not ignore it.

 

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: Deletions and Voids

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Let me just premise this entry by saying — crap crap crap crap crap.

I got a phone call from the accountant today.  It’s tax time, and the accountant wants to meet with me to go over the books.  Since I’ve never worked with this accountant before, I have no idea how closely they are going to want to look at the books.  I can’t help but fear that the accountant is going to figure out what I’ve been doing if he looks too closely at the books.  So I was in full blown panic mode all day.Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

So after thinking about it, I did what I could today to clean up the books.

I started by voiding out some of the checks and deposits that I had made, hoping that would be enough.  But then, when I realized that the checks were recording in the check register as “voided checks”, I had to rethink that strategy.

My solution:  I began deleting the checks and deposits instead.  That way, they disappear completely from all registers.

But then another problem popped up.  By deleting the checks and deposits, the bank balance began to change.  So, I went back and made sure to delete just enough to keep the balance close to what the original balance was.  Hopefully, it will be enough to fool the accountant.

Hopefully the accountant is a fool…

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How to Spot This Problem:

superhero_edited_no_maskWhether you have a good bookkeeper or a bad bookkeeper, deletions and voids are always a part of bookkeeping.  Mistakes happen and bookkeepers have to find and correct those mistakes to make sure their books balance.  One of the biggest benefits and downfalls of various bookkeeping programs like QuickBooks (especially QuickBooks) is that many of the programs make it really, really, really easy to do voids and deletions.  In fact, just doing a “Ctrl + D” while in any facet of QuickBooks will instantly delete that item.

Having said that…let me point out that bad bookkeepers will do an excessive amount of deletions, especially after reconciling the bank accounts.  Finding those deletions and voids are an excellent way to know if there is a problem with your bookkeeper.

While I am not familiar with EVERY bookkeeping program, I do know QuickBooks.  And if you have QuickBooks, it is very, very easy to find those deletions and voids.

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QUICK NOTE:  Now if you do suspect your bookkeeper of embezzling, the easiest thing to do would be to take a previous backup and “Restore It” to your QuickBooks program.  By doing this, you wipe out any and all changes that might have been made.  This is NOT a good idea if you want to know what your bookkeeper might have changed.  Instead, make a backup copy of the current program before restoring anything else, that way you can always go back and look more closely at any changes that have been made.

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Now, if you do have QuickBooks, finding these deletions are super easy.  All you have to do is go to Banking – Reconcile.  By doing so, you will then see a screen like this one with a “Locate Discrepancies” button:

By clicking on “Locate Discrepancies”, you can see ALL CHANGES THAT HAVE BEEN MADE SINCE THE LAST BANK RECONCILIATION.  If the account has never been reconciled, then nothing will appear here, which indicates a whole other set of problems.  If the account has been reconciled, you can find a list of every change that has been made and what the change was SINCE THE LAST RECONCILIATION.

After you have your list, simply “Undo (the) Last Reconciliation” to see what deletions were made in the reconciliation period before that.  You can keep doing this all the way to the very first reconciliation, and thus get a a fantastic picture of what has been deleted, voided and changed without your knowledge and after the reconciliation.  Remember… excessive deletions, voids and changes can mean that there is a problem with the bookkeeper…not necessarily that they are embezzlers so much as that they make a lot of mistakes.  But again, keep in mind that all bookkeeping has a certain amount of small mistakes that are caught every month when the reconciliations are done.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 40) – Stealing the Boss’s Identity

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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I got a new credit card today. Well, technically, I got a new “company credit card” today. When the boss wasn’t around, I went ahead and called his credit card company and told them we had lost his company card and needed a new one. They asked me for all of the usual identifying information – social security number, mother’s maiden name, address, phone, account number, etc. – and of course, I gave the guy on the other end of the line all of that information. I then told him that I wanted to change the password question “because the last bookkeeper got fired, and we need to protect my boss’s identity.”

The guy at the credit card company didn’t even miss a beat – after all, companies get new bookkeepers all the time. “Which question would you like?” the guy asked me. “Do you want a question about your high school, pets, favorite cities…” and on and on and on.

“How about the question about pets,” I answered innocently.

“Okay. What is your pet’s name?” he asked.

I thought really quickly, then answered, “Moron.”

“Excuse me,” the guy on the phone said.

“My pet’s name is Moron,” I repeated sincerely. What I wanted to add was – “and Moron’s my boss” – but I managed to hold my tongue… barely. It was so hard.

“Okay. Moron it is,” the guy said in a serious tone while clicking away at the keys on the other end of the phone.  “Anything else I can help you with?”

“Oh. I almost forgot,” I added. “Our office has moved. The address I gave you was for the old address. The new address and phone number is…” and then I gave him my home address and personal cell number.

Again, I heard clicking on the other end of the line as the poor dupe updated my boss’s “new information.” When he was done, he said, “You should get that credit card in the mail by…”, which turned out was today.

So, I swung by my house and checked the mail during lunch. The card was already there. So I went ahead and treated myself to lunch – on the boss, of course. After all, he doesn’t pay me nearly enough for all the excellent work I do for him. And since the boss never opens the mail – especially that particular credit card bill– what he doesn’t know what hurt him.

I wonder what I’ll buy tomorrow… Maybe some new earrings. I’ve always wanted pearls…

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How to Prevent this Kind of Bookkeeper Theft:

You would not believe how incredibly frustrating it is to call into your credit card company and find out that all of your password information has been changed. Not only can your password info be changed, but some people even go so far as to change the “mother’s maiden name” question. Of course, the simplest way to stop this is to catch it early. You can do so by doing the following:

  • Open your credit card statements, or check your transactions online regularly. If anything seems questionable – no matter how small or large – call the credit card company immediately and ask them how many cards they’ve sent out. You can also verify that your security information is still what you originally created.
  • If they tell you your password information has changed, be sure to throw a high holy conniption fit and demand to speak to an account manager or “their boss.” Get this account closed immediately because whoever has your card can still make purchases even while you’re on the line. They will send you a new credit card with a new credit card number within a matter of days.
  • Get copies of your three credit reports as soon as you possibly can because – quite frankly – if your private information has been changed, there’s nothing to keep them from signing up for more credit cards at vendors you may never even have heard of. But, the good news is that every single one of those stolen cards will show up on your credit reports!, but not always all three of the reports, which is why you should spend the extra money to access all three. (In fact, for $14.95 a month at Transunion, you can actually access those three reports and credit scores for free every month. It may be worth it if you ever find yourself a victim of identity fraud.)
  • If a credit card company calls you and says there is questionable activity on your account, get online immediately and see what they are talking about. If they are contacting you, they are probably seeing something they’ve never seen on your account before. So even if you have your credit card on you, it never hurts to double check whatever charges they’re concerned about.
  • And lastly, make sure you know where ALL cards are at all times. I once had a client who ordered a card for his wife – a card which never arrived. It turned out, someone stole it from his mailbox and was shopping with it in the next town and my client never knew. Luckily, I caught it with the very next credit card statement when I asked for receipts that matched the charges, and we realized immediately what had happened. So even though the thief had managed to steal more than $7,000 in 15 short days, my client was not liable for a penny, especially because he disputed the charges right away. (Which is another good reason to check those statements every month.)

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Click Here to read the Previous Entry: Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 30) – The Double Payday Scam

Click Here to Read the Next Entry:  Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 55) – The Sister Company Scam


Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 112) – Theft by Signature Stamp

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Today the boss went on vacation and guess what he gave me…the Signature Stamp.  I couldn’t believe it when he handed it to me.  I think my smile was from ear-to-ear.  Doesn’t he realize how stupid it is to give me the signature stamp?

“Are you sure you want to give this to me?” I asked all innocent like.  In the back of my mind, I was already calculating how much money I might be able to get now that I had this new stamp.

“Of course.  I trust you,” he told me with an amused little smirk.

That smirk told me everything I needed to know.  My question had just convinced him that I was the sweet innocent young lady he had come to know so well.  Because – fool that he was – he sincerely believed that everyone was as open and honest as he was.

I almost felt bad about stealing from him.  Almost.  But then I would remember that I was making less money than everyone else in his company…everyone except the receptionist.

“I don’t know.  That’s a lot of responsibility,” I commented in the best hemming-and-hawing voice I could manage.  “I really don’t want to let you down.”

“It’ll be fine,” he assured me with a light pat on my shoulder.

Then he strolled out of my office.  An hour later, he left the office for good.  He was off to the Caribbean for the next two weeks.

I waited an hour after he left just to make sure he wasn’t coming back.

And then…

Over the next week…

  • I signed some IRS paperwork with that signature stamp.  Whether or not the IRS paperwork is accurate…?  Who cares.  At least it’s filed.
  • I opened a new cell phone account with his signature stamp…got the “Unlimited Text and Talk” package…for my whole family.  My daughter may only be 8, but she loves her pretty new pink cell phone.  And of course, I love my new iPhone.
  • I also got a new Business Gas Card Account.
  • I downloaded a new bank account application from online, signed it with his signature stamp and faxed the paperwork back .  Got instant approval.
  • I sent out several applications to local vendors to get lines of credit.  They all got approved.  I now own a chainsaw from the local hardware store (because I can), an electric lawnmower from Lowes, solar panels for the garden from the local garden supply store, and $300 window blinds from Home Depot.
  • I ordered a bunch of magazine subscriptions in his name and sent them to my house.  (I really love Cosmo.)
  • I walked into Office Depot and paid for a whole bunch of office supplies with a blank company check and his signature…including a new printer for my kids and a portable scanner for… I guess for the “heck of it.”
  • I went to the bank with a check made out to Cash.  (That was an easy $500.)
  • I paid my new car’s DMV bills with his check…and got my husband’s car smogged.
  • I signed a few petitions in his name.  He’s now a Democrat that actively supports breast cancer funding.
  • I also got a PO Box in his name at the local Mailboxes Etc. office.  All that new paperwork will never even come to the office.
  • …And I did a whole bunch of other stuff, although I can’t remember them at the moment.

You know what the best thing is, Diary?  When he comes back, he’ll have no idea what I’ve done.  Most of the paperwork will go to the new PO Box I opened in his name.  And even if he comes back and asks to see the bank statement for the first time ever, he still won’t know what I’ve done.  I can explain away the DMV and car-related bills as “work needed on one of the company vehicles,” the Office Depot check as “supplies we needed” and the Cash check as “Petty Cash” issues that came up.  All the rest…well… there’s just no way he can find out about that stuff.   At least none that I can see.

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How to CATCH this Kind of Theft:

You can’t.

You can’t catch this kind of theft because you’ve given them a free pass to steal from you.  And since your bookkeeper has access to all of your most personal information – social security numbers, DOBs, Tax ID Numbers – you’ve just made it super easy for them to take anything they want in your name.   That means – YOU are responsible LEGALLY for EVERYTHING they’ve done.  The IRS says you owe money, and they have your legal signature on file…then you have to pay it or try to fight it.  It’s your signature. And if you lose, you have to pay penalties and interest on top of the paperwork they’ve filed.

Okay – you CAN catch this kind of theft, but you’ll need a professionals help after the fact to find out what that bad bookkeeper did.  Now you can PREVENT this kind of theft by NOT giving your signature stamp to anyone who has access to your checks, credit cards, or any kind of personal information.  Maybe that person is your office manager or receptionist.  Maybe you can give it to your accountant and make your bookkeeper go to them to get your signature.  Either way, by adding a second person to the mix whenever you go on vacation, thus giving the second person you’re signature stamp, you are taking steps to actively prevent embezzlement while you’re away.

AND REMEMBER – IF YOU EVEN SUSPECT BOOKKEEPING FRAUD, ASK YOUR ACCOUNTANT FOR HELP.  You’re not crazy.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 30) – The Double Payday Scam

Dear Diary,

Today was payday – the second since I’ve been here.  I figured it was about time to test the Double Payday Scam – to see if my boss would actually catch me.

So, I started the day by doing the Payroll.  Just like two weeks ago, I created and took all of the paychecks to the boss to sign.  He signed them, with only the occasional request to see a corresponding timecard…then he signed mine without question.

I took the checks back to my office and set mine aside.  Then, I printed up another paycheck that I took back to him.

“What’s this?” he asked me, glancing briefly at my double payday.

“It’s a replacement check.  I double-checked my income and realized that I had entered my withholdings incorrectly, and QuickBooks took out too much in taxes.  So I voided the other one and reprinted this one.”

“Okay,” he said, shrugging and then signing my check.

And just like that – Double payday.  If he had asked me to produce the voided check, I would have gone back to my office and voided the first check… but since he didn’t, he’ll never know.  Even if he opens the bank statement (which let’s face it, he probably won’t), he’ll see the extra paycheck and think he’s just looked at the same check twice.

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How to Catch the Double Payday Scam:

All a small business owner has to do to catch the Double Payday Scam is to ask to see the voided check, or to insist that you will void all checks personally.  They can then refile the checks, and you have protected yourself… it’s that simple.

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Click Here to Read the previous entry:  Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 14) – The Carnage Begins

Click Here to Read the Next Entry:  Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 40) – Stealing the Boss’s Identity

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Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: A Cautionary Embezzlement Tale for Small Business Owners Everywhere

Meet Betty Bookkeeper 

She’s embezzling thousands of dollars a month from her unsuspecting Small Business Owner boss. Her boss has absolutely no idea because she seems like such a good woman. It’s that trust which makes it so tempting and so easy for Betty to steal.

Do you have a Betty Bookkeeper? Or are you a Bookkeeper who worries about protecting your reputation? Then this book is for you. This book is a work of fiction with some non-fiction advice. It was originally written to help small business owners spot and stop embezzlement in their small business companies.

An Embezzlement Book for Small Businesses

While there are tons of books about stopping embezzlement at a corporate level, there are very few that talk about embezzlement on a Small Business scale. This book offers:

16 common bookkeeping scams committed against small businesses and how to stop them.  A brief overview at the end of how to do a Quickie Audit and see if your current bookkeeper is a “Betty Bookkeeper.”
Some of the common business scams include:

The Double Payday Scam The Phishing Scam The PayPal Weak Link The Shell Company Scam The Payroll Tax Scam …And many more.
If you have EVER worried that your bookkeeper is stealing from you, or if you are a bookkeeper who wants to protect yourself from being accused of embezzlement, get this book and put the practices to use. It could save your lifestyle.

WARNING: This book will scare you silly if you are a business owner. Betty has a twisted sense of humor and is not afraid to use it. At roughly 15,000 words, it is a fast read that will either make you laugh or cry.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper – (Day 9) In the Clear

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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Dear Diary,

Well, it’s been a little over a week, and I would say I’ve got “the lay of the land.”   Apparently, the Owner wasn’t kidding when he said he’d be out of the office a lot.  I have yet to actually see him in the office for more than an hour a day.  He comes into the office in the morning to give his field guys their daily assignments, then he talks to me for about 10 minutes before he too heads out.  Right before he walks through the door, he stops and talks to the receptionist, telling her to forward all of his important calls and take messages on the less important ones.  Yada yada yada.  Everyday is the same.  (Which bodes well for me.)

Today though was a really good day.  Since the first day I got here, I’ve been the sole person in charge of the mail.  And that mail comes to me unopened.  Today, the bank statement came in.  I’ve been waiting to see if the owner would make an exception when it comes to the bank statement, but he just tosses it on my desk without even looking at it.  That’s a good sign for me.  That means when I start forging checks, he’ll never know.  Any checks that come back, I can shred before he gets them.

Man, I love working for “really busy” Small Business Owners.

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The Importance Behind the Bank Statement:

To many, choosing the person that opens the bank statement is unimportant.  But here’s the General Rule:  He who Opens the Bank Statement First is the One Who Can Steal the Most Without Getting Caught. That means, if it’s the bookkeeper – who has access to the checks – you are BEGGING them to steal from you.  If it’s the receptionist, that receptionist may end up in cahoots with your bookkeeper to steal from you.  But if it’s You-the-Small-Business-Owner, you can catch theft as soon as it happens.  So be smart… open the bank statement first every time.  Even if you don’t look for theft, it’s often enough to dissuade thieves in your company from stealing bank funds.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 195) – The IRS

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Today I got a notice from the IRS.  Luckily, the receptionist passed the letter to me unopened before the boss saw it (she didn’t know what it was), and he doesn’t know it’s here.

Opening the letter, I was shocked.  The IRS said that the company owned payroll taxes on the paychecks for the last three months that I’ve been here, and since we hadn’t paid when we were supposed to, we now owe penalties and interest.  Apparently, payroll taxes are due within three business days of cutting payroll checks, and the IRS considers that money “they’re money.”  All I can say is…”WHOOPS!”

So now I have a dilemma.  Do I show the boss the letter and have him cut the check right away?  Or, do I just hide this letter and try to deal with it a little at a time, without the boss knowing?  Obviously, the first choice comes with the unfortunate consequence of the boss coming to believe that I don’t know how to do my job when I do (I mean – Seriously!  It was one simple mistake).  The latter choice means that he continues thinking I’m brilliant, and that the company is doing better in my hands…

Hmmmm…choices, choices.

Although, now that I think about it, I see a third option here.  I could always continue to fill out the payroll tax forms, but instead of cutting the IRS checks, I could just take the payroll tax money and enter the taxes as “Paid” in the bookkeeping program.  The boss will think that I’m paying the taxes, and I can make a little extra on the side.  Then, if the IRS does ever come calling, I can just explain it away as, “the bookkeeping program must have made an error in calculating the payroll taxes.”  After all, it’s not like the boss would expect me to stay on top of all the interest rates.

And how often does the IRS come calling?  I mean, Really?

You know what they say, “Ignorance is bliss.”

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Keeping a Clean Bill of Health with the IRS

I’ve often told my clients, “The IRS is an unforgiving mistress.”  Would this piss the IRS off to hear?  Sure…but I think they would rather keep their intimidating reputation than have people painting them as sweet and kind.

The facts are these…The IRS considers themselves debt collectors for the people.  The money that a business is supposed to pay does NOT belong to the business, but to the business’s employees the moment those checks are cut (at least in the IRS’s point of view).  What that means is, they will NOT negotiate on when you can and cannot pay payroll taxes.  You should pay it within three business days of the checks being cut, PERIOD.  And if you ask employees to hold off on cashing their checks until you can get some money in the bank account, you could suffer fines as high as $25,000 per Employee Check.  (Imagine it…your business is strapped for cash, and so you ask your employees to wait a week to cash their checks.  Then you fire a bad employee.  What will they do?  They’ll run to the IRS and report you, and BAM – bye, bye business.)

The point I’m dancing around here is that – YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE IRS!  You – whether you’re the bookkeeper or the business owner – need to make sure the taxes get paid on time.  Since payments can now be made over the phone directly from a checking account, the business owner will likely never see a payroll tax check to cut.  That means, the business owner needs to check up on their bookkeeper and make sure the taxes were paid, or you could suffer huge fines.

To Make Sure the IRS Taxes are Being Paid

This step merely comes down to one thing yet again. Open your bank statements and look at it.  You will probably see the payments listed near the top, detailed out as an EFTPS payment to the IRS.  It’s that simple.  If you don’t see the payments cut as often as payroll is cut, get it taken care of immediately.

One Last Note for Small Business Owners

The mistake of not paying the payroll taxes is VERY common with a lot of bookkeepers.  The biggest reason is that many bookkeepers are office managers that were handed a company’s check register and told to “take care of it.”  So, just because payroll taxes may not have been paid at your company, doesn’t mean your bookkeeper is an embezzler.  It could just mean that they aren’t on top of everything they’re supposed to be doing yet.  Make sure your bookkeeper is on top of the IRS forms, and definitely talk to your accountant for help.  That’s an accountants main job – to deal with the IRS.

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Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper – (Day 1) A New Job

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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Dear Diary,

I just started my new job today, and it’s perfect.  It’s a small company with only a few employees, most of whom are never in the office – they all work “in the field.”  Also, there’s a receptionist, so I won’t have to be constantly answering the phone (thank goodness for that).  The receptionist is very friendly, and I can tell that she’s looking forward to having another woman in the office.  Most of the other employees are men – all the better for what I have planned.

The interview went well (…of course it always does).  The owner told me that he’s never in the office because he’s a contractor and he always has to be at a job site.  He told me that I would have to “take initiative” and “put out a lot of fires.”  Basically, he wants to not have to deal with customers and vendors too much, and so he expects to handle everything.  Just as long as he’s left out of it.  Idiot.  Still, it will make my job even easier.

I came in this morning and saw the owner just before he left.  He handed me a set of keys for the office and told me where the checkbook was.  He then showed me my office and stayed for a few minutes to chat.  He told me that he had called a few of my references and he was satisfied.  Thank heavens that the law won’t let previous managers give bad references, lest they get sued.  But even if that wasn’t the law, there was no way in hell I was going to put down my ex-boss as a real reference.  Nope – a friend is good enough…

Guess I should get back to work.  Gotta learn the ropes – before I rob them blind.

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Click here to read the next entry:  Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper – Day 9 (In the Clear)