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 (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 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: Paypal

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

Dear Diary,

Betty Bookkeeper HeadshotToday I got an intriguing email.  The email was a confirmation from PayPal.  It said that we had spent $150 on an online order.  Since the company does not have a PayPal account, I knew it was a scam – a Phishing Scam, where some con artist is trying to get access to our account.  When you click on the links in the email, you are taken to a fake PayPal page where you are encouraged to log in and verify the purchase (or deny it), and then the fake website captures your real log in details and the con artist can then empty out your PayPal account.  Any good back office person knows – you never click on links in emails from financial websites (because it’s easy to “cloak” the website links).  You always go directly to the original website and log in there. 

Obviously the PayPal notice was a con…but it got me thinking.  Our company does not have a PayPal account…but we could.  It only takes a few minutes to set up, and then you can make payments from any checking account or credit card account that you link to it. 

So I opened one. 

Then, I went online and made a purchase to Office Depot. 

When I checked the bank balance online, I saw that the payment was debited as a PayPal account to Office Depot.  As far as I’m concerned, the explanation from the bank is simple enough to satisfy the boss.  Now, I don’t need to forge checks unless I really want to. 

Now the only question is…what should I buy

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In this mini story, there are actually two cons I’ve brought up:  The Phishing Scam and The PayPal Weak Link. 

The Phishing Scam is an actual scam where a thief sends a fake email encouraging you to click on the link in the email.  By doing so, they can capture your login information and then clean out your bank accounts.  PayPal Emails are the most common financial cons.  After PayPal, sending emails from banks would be the second most common way con artists get information from their victims.

There are three easy ways to spot these scams: 

  1. Banks and financial institutions have standard, precise emails already created that always use the same verbiage.  Phishing emails, on the other hand, often have misspellings and/or sentences that don’t make sense.  If anything doesn’t seem right with any financial institution’s email, it probably isn’t from your financial institution.   
  2. When you open the email, you will see the “From” address is not necessarily from the financial institution it claims to be from.  Whatever is after the “@” sign is the website address.  Anything in addition to the normal address probably means the email is a scam.  (For example:  …@paypal.fakesite.com or …@fakesite.paypal.alerts.com.)  Both the paypal.fakesite.com and the fakesite.paypal.alerts.com are completely fake because whatever comes before the .com is the site.  That means, these sites would be fakesite.com and alerts.com…not PayPal.com.   
  3. And finally, banks and financial institutions openly encourage customers to NOT click on links from their emails because Phishing Scams are so common.  Instead, they will tell you to go directly to their actual website to log in so that you can verify if the email is from the bank or not (and thus the alert is fake or not). 

Also, it’s common to get emails from banks you don’t even have an account with.  If that happens, obviously you can ignore those…but if you are concerned that an embezzler has opened an account in your name, just print out that email and go down to the bank to see if you have an account or not. 

AND when in doubt – go directly to the source…never click on the links in an email from a Financial Institution. 

As for the second con – The PayPal Weak Link: 

It is very, very easy to open a PayPal account and link it to a checking account…any checking account.  PayPal has a very simple verification process, which means that creating a PayPal account is easy for anyone with access to your checking account information, including your bookkeeper.  From there, it is very easy to steal money because PayPal and the bank account link together in order to create instant money transfers.  Plus, money can be sent to anyone with another PayPal account, and everyone takes PayPal these days (including airlines and other travel agencies), so stealing becomes very easy.

Therefore, to protect yourself from someone linking a PayPal account to YOUR checking account, you need to link it first.  In other words, you need to be the one to create a PayPal account with your checking account.  PayPal only allows a checking account to be linked ONCE, which means no one else can use the checking account information.  Once you have linked it, keep that information to yourself.  There’s no need to share it with your bookkeeper or anyone else because business’s should stick to using Bank Bill Pay and writing checks…Period.  PayPal should only be used by one person…the creator of that account.

Thus, if you don’t have a PayPal account, start one immediately in order to protect your checking account.  If PayPal does NOT let you create a PayPal account, then an embezzler has already linked to your checking account, and you need to consider closing it.  This is one of those huge companies that you just can’t avoid, and you really shouldn’t avoid. 

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper (Day 127) – The Payroll Tax Scam

Dear Diary,

Today, I was bored at work.  Really bored.  I mean – surf-the-internet-looking-for-designer-handbags bored.  (And I don’t even like designer handbags…although I wouldn’t mind a Brighton.)

Anyway…it was Payroll Day, which usually I’m happy about.  When payroll comes around, I take my sweet time entering all the timecards and wages.  I tell the boss it’s an all-day project, but in actuality, I’m done before lunchtime.  I usually bring the checks into his office around 4PM, thus I get the rest of the afternoon to screw around online.

So there I was, surfing Bag, Borrow or Steal, when the receptionist walked in.  I quickly switched the windows on my computer to show the payroll.  Ironically, it was my own check.

“When do you think the payroll checks will be ready?” the receptionist asked me.

“Why do you wanna know?” I asked in my most annoyed voice.

She inched toward the door, clearly uncomfortable by my unwelcoming persona.  “It’s just, I have to leave at lunchtime, and I’m going on vacation for the weekend.  I was kinda hoping to get that check before I left.”

“Oh.  Well then, I’ll put a rush on your paycheck,” I told her.

Her little ears actually turned pink with pleasure as she thanked me effusively and scooched out of my office.

That was when I turned my attention back to the monitor and realized something.  I had inadvertently changed my Federal tax deduction amount from $200 to $0.  I don’t think I’d ever realized before that it was so easy to change the payroll taxes before cutting a check.

It was my Ah-Ha moment – like Oprah always talks about.  I realized in that moment, I could zero out my taxes to get more money with every paycheck, but then still pay the regular tax amount to the IRS each and every payday.  Then, at the end of the year, I could file my taxes and get a BIG-FAT refund.  Even better, I could make my boss overpay the taxes on everyone every week and file the paperwork at the end of the year declaring that all of those excessive taxes were deducted from my paychecks alone, and then get an even larger refund.  If I could manage to make the weekly payroll amounts the same every payday, the boss wouldn’t think to look twice at the money being deducted from the account.

The question now is:  how much can I get away with paying before the boss notices a difference?
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To Stop this Kind of Embezzlement:

This is one of the sneakiest types of embezzlement, especially because it’s common for an employer to pay a lot of money in payroll taxes.  Also, it’s common for bookkeepers to adjust individual government taxes for each pay period because usually, it’s only the individual employee who would have to face the consequences – that of dealing with the IRS at the end of the year and trying to get a refund or make up the difference.  The biggest embezzlement possibility happens when the final paperwork is filed at the end of the year – the paperwork that details out who paid what in employee/employer taxes.  It is on that paperwork where an embezzler can declare that they overpaid in their taxes and thus deserved to get ALL of that money back.

Therefore, to catch and prevent this kind of embezzlement, you need to:

1)      Look closely at the individual taxes of the person who creates the paychecks.  (This should be on an attached paystub.)  Compare it to someone who makes approximately the same amount during that period.  Look to see if the tax amounts are very different or only slightly skewed.  A big difference will either mean that the two individuals claim different deductions during the year, or that the tax numbers were overridden.

2)      Periodically, add up the individual taxes for all of the employees being paid.  Once you have a total tally, compare it to the payment that was made to the government.  (You should see this on the bank statement or credit card statement that was used to make the taxes.)  If the totals are not the same, then you definitely have a problem.  That problem could be embezzlement, or it could just be that your bookkeeper is dyslexic.

3)      Finally, have someone other than the person entering the payroll fill out the final payroll tax paperwork at the end of the year.  Even though it will cost you more to pay an accountant to do this, it could potentially save you thousands in overpaid taxes that an embezzler will claim as a refund.  All you have to do is send a copy of your bookkeeping file to your accountant, and then your accountant can take a closer look at anything that doesn’t look right.

If you have any other suggestions on how to stop this type of embezzlement, please share it.  The only way to stop embezzlers from destroying the companies they work with, is through educating each other about how they’re getting away with it.

Diary of a Bad, Bad Bookkeeper: Men Suck!

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot

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Dear Diary,

Today was another, “Not so great day”…but this time it was one for the books.

Today, when I went to work, I wasn’t feeling so hot.  In fact, I ended up puking into my office trash can just as the boss walked in.

Betty Bookkeeper Headshot“Hey,” he says to me, looking concerned.  “You’re sick?  You shouldn’t be here if you’re sick.  Go home!”

“She was sick yesterday too,” the traitor receptionist chimed in from behind him.  “She’s been sick for a while.”

“Have you been to a doctor?” the boss asked me.

“No.  I don’t need to go to the doctor, okay!”  I snapped.  “I’m fine.”

“You’re three shades of green,” he countered.  “You should definitely go home.  You may have the flu.  Or even worse, food poisoning.  In fact, I insist you go home until you get better.”

The receptionist gave me a triumphant smile from over his shoulder.  The witch never liked me.

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“I won’t get better for another eight months, alright!” I bit out, my eyes narrowing at her.

The receptionist’s eyes widened.  She understood right away.

My boss didn’t get it, of course.  He never does.  “Why do you say that?  What happens in eight months?”

“That’s when she has a baby,” the receptionist chimed in.

The boss’s eyes widened, his expression immediately going to my still-flat belly.  “You’re pregnant?”

“Yes, I am,” I growled.  And I don’t know who the father is, I silently added.  It was either my husband (who would be over the moon if he thought I was pregnant), or Ernie (the employee who had blackmailed me into looking the other way while he stole from the company…let’s just say that things have progressed between us).  If it’s Ernie’s baby…well, he’d probably be thrilled too.

Men Suck!

“That’s fantastic!” the boss said.

You suck too!

His expression changed as he looked at me though.  I could see the exact moment when he realized this was going to affect my place in the company sometime in the near future.

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Heading him off, I said, “But you don’t need to worry about me missing any work.  I’m not much of a stay-at-home mom.  I won’t need more than a few days off from work when the time comes.”

His face twisted.  “Are you kidding?  That’s a very important time in a child’s life.  It’s when they bond with their child.  You’ll want more than a few days off of work.”

“You forget…I have two children already.  There’s no way on Earth I want to spend any more time with a child.  Trust me.  I’ll be back for work fairly quickly.”

“Oh don’t be foolish,” the receptionist chimed in.  “You’ll definitely want time off.  And I know just the place to call to get a temp in here.”

Did I mention I hate the receptionist?

“That sounds like a good idea,” the boss said, smiling at her like she was brilliant.  “Why don’t you call them and see how much they cost.”  Turning back to me, he says, “And you don’t worry about anything, Betty.  When the time comes, you’re job will be here.  We love having you here.  You take all the time you need to bond with your baby.  In the meantime, can I get you something?  Are you hungry?”

I could feel my teeth grinding.  “I’m fine.”

“Well then, I guess I’ll let you get back to work.  You take it easy.  And don’t worry about the trash.  I’ll send Ernie in to empty that for you.”

Then the boss left, shuffling the receptionist off with him.

So now I’m freaking out.  Time off?   I can’t take time off.  What if someone catches onto what I’m doing?  What if the next bookkeeper is better than me?  What am I going to do?

[ad#Adlinks – Bookkeeping Class]

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A Warning Sign

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While this article is a bit more of a dramatization then I usually go for, there is a point here.  The point is, this is a warning sign:

Whenever a bookkeeper doesn’t want to take a vacation, maternity leave, or even call in sick…it could be a warning sign.

You see…good bookkeepers aren’t worried about people going through their offices, whether other staff or other bookkeepers.  Good bookkeepers make themselves replaceable at all times (in my opinion).  The best bookkeepers have nothing to hide or fear.

Embezzling bookkeepers, on the other hand, fear anyone going through their paperwork, their computer files, and sometimes even their filing cabinets.  They fear being caught all the time.  Taking time off for maternity leave or going on vacation is often when they get caught.  Instead, they spend as much time in the office as they can, protecting the terrible things they’ve done, as well as their secrets.

How to Know For Sure

As always, if you are concerned that your bookkeeper is embezzling from you, hire someone to look more closely at your books.  Accountants do not do this unless asked.  Virtual Bookkeepers or Independent Bookkeepers are an excellent source for looking for fraudulent activity.

Start by getting a backup of your bookkeeping program when your bookkeeper is not around, and send it to the hired auditor.  Also get copies of your bank statements.  These two things will help them get started looking for embezzlement.  From there, they will either ask for copies of suspicious checks, credit card statements, receipts…and any number of things.

The key is…if you suspect, don’t site blindly by.  Take this as a warning sign and ask someone for help.  It’s better to spend a few hundred dollars hiring an auditor then to lose thousands and thousands to an embezzler.