- Researchers have found significant differences between violent and white-collar criminals but few differences between white-collar criminals and the general public. White-collar criminals tend to mirror the general public in education, age, religion, marriage, length of employment, and psychological makeup.
- Perpetrators of computer fraud tend to be younger and possess more computer knowledge, experience, and skills. Hackers and computer fraud perpetrators tend to be more motivated by curiosity, a quest for knowledge, the desire to learn how things work, and the challenge of beating the system. They may view their actions as a game rather than dishonest behavior.
- Another motivation may be to gain stature in the hacking community. Some see themselves as revolutionaries spreading a message of anarchy and freedom. But a growing number want to profit financially. To do so, they may sell data to spammers, organized crime, other hackers, and the intelligence community.
- Some fraud perpetrators are disgruntled and unhappy with their jobs and are seeking revenge against their employers. Others are regarded as ideal, hard-working employees in positions of trust. Most have no prior criminal record.
- Criminologist Donald Cressey, interviewed 200+ convicted white-collar criminals in an attempt to determine the common threads in their crimes. As a result of his research, he determined that three factors were present in the commission of each crime. These three factors have come to be known as the fraud triangle.
Pressure: The most common pressures were: not being able to pay one’s debts, nor admit it to one’s employer, family, or friends; fear of loss of status because of a personal failure; business reversals, physical isolation, status gaining, and difficulties in employer-employee relations.
Opportunity: Opportunity is the opening or gateway that allows an individual to commit the fraud, conceal the fraud, and convert the proceeds. There are many opportunities that enable fraud. Some of the most common are: Lack of internal controls, Failure to enforce controls (the most prevalent reason), Excessive trust in key employees, Incompetent supervisory personnel, Inattention to details, Inadequate staffing
Rationalization: Rationalizations take many forms, including: I was just borrowing the money, It wasn’t really hurting anyone, Everybody does it, I was only taking what was owed to me, I didn’t take it for myself. I needed it to pay my child’s medical bills.
Unfortunately, there is usually a mixture of pressure, opportunity, and rationalization in play, and there is no reliable method to predict when an individual may commit a fraud.