All of them left tell-tale signs. And sadly, all could have been caught quickly (or bookkeepers would have never embezzled at all) by the owners doing one simple thing - having their bank statements sent home.
So, if you aren't getting your bank statements at home, stop reading this email and call you bank. Have your address changed to get your bank statements at home. Look at them! The microfiche's show signatures, who the checks were written to, and the numerical sequences. If something doesn't make sense, then start asking questions. This is your first line of defense!
If you have a bookkeeper, who supposedly knows what he or she is doing, and your books are a mess, the first question you should be asking is, "Why?" If a bookkeeper knows what he or she is doing, your books should be clean. They should be readable. If they are a mess, then you may have an embezzler. By keeping the books a mess, the embezzler can easily hide his or her actions. You can't follow what's going on in your business so you probably won't catch the embezzlement.
If you decide to get an audit, or have someone like me look at your financial procedures and financial statements, then don't be surprised when the embezzler strongly objects to an outsider reviewing the books. Or, when an outsider does come in, the bookkeeper quits - usually with a flimsy excuse.