Return to the home page

If it Seems Too Good to be True, Then it Probably is

Originally published: 08.01.17 by Ruth King

While your main focus is on making money, don’t forget to direct some attention to keeping an eye on the money you’ve already made.

These past few months, I’ve outlined several ways other people can easily steal your hard-earned money. Here are two more ways, unfortunately, most contractors overlook.

Interview Too Good To Be True

A contractor’s long-time CFO was moving to another state. She gave him plenty of notice and even said she’d train her replacement.

He reached out to friends and colleagues, asking them whether they kne of a competent CFO looking to make a career change. A friend suggested a woman and the owner contacted her.

She came in for the first interview and passed. Both the current CFO and the owner liked her, and both thought she could do the job.

The next step was a comprehensive bookkeeping test. The contractor gives this test to any person who wants an accounting position at his company.

It weeds out the people who interview well and appear to know accounting, but don’t really understand debits and credits.

The candidate passed the bookkeeping test with flying colors.

The final step was a background check, and this is where the contractor was shocked. She had previously been convicted of embezzlement!

She didn’t mention this conviction in any of the interviews, but it was public record. She knew that had she mentioned it, there would be no chance of being hired. She was betting that the contractor wouldn’t do a background check — and she was wrong.

Obviously, the company didn’t hire her. Also, the contractor did his colleague a favor and told him about her conviction.

Your interview process must include a background check. It’s your hard earned money the bookkeeper will be handling. A clean background check gives you a little comfort.

Also, for bookkeeping positions, request a 15-year background check (the normal time period for background checks is seven years).

There have been embezzlers who are patient. They wait the seven years to clean their normal background checks and are counting on prospective employers not to do a “deep dive” and look at the past 15 years.

Watch Your Vendors

Here is the reason you always ask your bank to send your bank statements home and review them before you give them to the bookkeeper to balance the bank account.

A contractor was reviewing his bank statement and noticed a copy of a check to his auto repair shop that seemed higher than he remembered.

The next morning, he brought the bank statement to the bookkeeper and asked her to pull the back-up for the check to the auto repair shop they used.

The invoice from the auto repair company showed $49, and he signed a check for the $49. The amount taken from the company’s bank account on the bank statement, however, was $449. The microfiche picture on the bank statement also showed $449. Someone in the auto repair shop had altered the check and added $400!

The contractor took the bank statement, the actual invoice for $49 and the check stub showing the check for $49 to the bank. They credited his account for the $400 and went after the auto repair shop for the funds.

Most of us never imagine our vendors will steal from us. Yet, vendors’ employees can steal just as easily as yours can.

Had the owner not reviewed the bank statement and remembered the amount of the check he’d signed, the thief would have gotten away with $400.

It’s easy to do. Credit the contractor’s account for the $49, which was owed, deposit the check for $449 and take the difference. The owner of the auto shop would never know. If in the unlikely event he caught it, the employee could say that it was an error and show him the original invoice.

Always ask your bank to send your bank statements to your home. And, look at your on-line bank balances at least every other day. This is the first line of defense against the 1 percent who are professional embezzlers.

Also look at the microfiche copies of the checks. You signed the checks. If something doesn’t look right, you can spot it and ask the bookkeeper for backup.

Another great reason for sending your bank statements home is you see all of the bounced checks, late payments, etc. associated with your bank account.

It’s your hard earned cash. Watch what is going on with it.



About Ruth King

Ruth King

Ruth King has over 25 years of experience in the hvacr industry and has worked with contractors, distributors, and manufacturers to help grow their companies and become more profitable. She is president of HVAC Channel TV and holds a Class II (unrestricted) contractors license in Georgia. Ruth has written two books: The Ugly Truth About Small Business and The Ugly Truth About Managing People. Contact Ruth at or 770.729.0258.

Articles by Ruth King

Keep Your Employees from Stealing this Summer

Don’t let policies you enforce during slow times get ignored when you’re busy.
View article.

7 Places to Look if Your Gross Margins are not Consistent

A consistent gross margin means that your profit and loss (P&L) statement is probably accurate (unless you discover overhead mistakes).
View article.

How Much Cash is Enough Cash?

Save the amount of cash that is comfortable for you. Get in the habit of putting money in savings accounts.
View article.

Cash, Profits or Profitability — Which is Most Important?

Continuous profits, turned into continuous cash, give your company the best chance for survival and building wealth.
View article.

Wealth Rule No. 10: Have an Increasing Current Ratio

Your company’s current ratio should be monitored monthly. It should always be greater than one. It should be constant or trending upward.
View article.