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

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.

*******************************************************************************

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.

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

  1. Karen says:

    Heads up y’all! You CAN prove this kind of fraud – all of these activities will be time-tracked – they will obviously have taken place during the time the boss was gone, and after the bookkeeper received the signature. The credit reporting companies will be receiving delinquency reports, which are inevitable – and they’ll contact the business owner, and he will begin an investigation. Hopefully he has solid business insurance!
    Sad to say, though, that his insurance will not cover all of this; there’s a lot of red tape and it takes time, but they will investigate as well.
    I am speaking from experience – I recently had to unravel the trail of a very bad, bad bookkeeper, and she is looking at some very serious jail time, not to mention restitution… so, for all of you considering this a how-to manual, remember – a good bookkeeper coming in behind you can follow your trail and figure you out pretty quick – and, as they say on my favorite radio show, “crooks get busted”!!!

  2. Karen says:

    Heads up y’all! You CAN prove this kind of fraud – all of these activities will be time-tracked – they will obviously have taken place during the time the boss was gone, and after the bookkeeper received the signature. The credit reporting companies will be receiving delinquency reports, which are inevitable – and they’ll contact the business owner, and he will begin an investigation. Hopefully he has solid business insurance!
    Sad to say, though, that his insurance will not cover all of this; there’s a lot of red tape and it takes time, but they will investigate as well.
    I am speaking from experience – I recently had to unravel the trail of a very bad, bad bookkeeper, and she is looking at some very serious jail time, not to mention restitution… so, for all of you considering this a how-to manual, remember – a good bookkeeper coming in behind you can follow your trail and figure you out pretty quick – and, as they say on my favorite radio show, “crooks get busted”!!!

  3. This could be one of the most authoritative words I ever learned in a long time, I’m uttering about this part of your article “… out what that bad bookkeeper did.

  4. This could be one of the most authoritative words I ever learned in a long time, I’m uttering about this part of your article “… out what that bad bookkeeper did.

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  6. Tammy Martin says:

    @Karen…I agree. I was the one who caught an admin doing just that. She was fired immediately, convicted, spent 60 days in the county jail and is still repaying the debt to this day. She was just released from probation in January. I do have to say though, this blog is an eye-opener for alot of people. Theft is one of my areas of expertise and I offer reviews of a potential client’s books as part of my services.

  7. Tammy Martin says:

    @Karen…I agree. I was the one who caught an admin doing just that. She was fired immediately, convicted, spent 60 days in the county jail and is still repaying the debt to this day. She was just released from probation in January. I do have to say though, this blog is an eye-opener for alot of people. Theft is one of my areas of expertise and I offer reviews of a potential client’s books as part of my services.

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