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What Is Fraud, Anyway?

“Fraud” is any activity that relies on deception in order to achieve a gain. Fraud becomes a crime when it is a “knowing misrepresentation of the truth or concealment of a material fact to induce another to act to his or her detriment” (Black’s Law Dictionary). In other words, if you lie in order to deprive a person or organization of their money or property, you’re committing fraud.

Why Do People Commit Fraud?

The most widely accepted explanation for why some people commit fraud is known as the Fraud Triangle. The Fraud Triangle was developed by Dr. Donald Cressey, a criminologist whose research on embezzlers produced the term “trust violators.”

Triangle with the words Financial Pressure, Rationalization and Opportunity each on one side of the triangle

The Fraud Triangle hypothesizes that if all three components are present — unshareable financial need, perceived opportunity and rationalization — a person is highly likely to pursue fraudulent activities. As Dr. Cressey explains in the the Fraud Examiners Manual:

“When the trust violators were asked to explain why they refrained from violation of other positions of trust they might have held at previous times, or why they had not violated the subject position at an earlier time, those who had an opinion expressed the equivalent of one or more of the following quotations: (a) ‘There was no need for it like there was this time.’ (b) ‘The idea never entered my head.’ (c) ‘I thought it was dishonest then, but this time it did not seem dishonest at first.’”

Source: Association of Certified Fraud Examiners

Image: Freepik

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