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Motives for committing fraud

Why do criminals commit fraud and what factors make it possible for them to do so? This section focuses on the psychology of fraud criminals.

What are fraud factors?

A fraud factor is an enabler to the risk of fraud. Fraud could be committed if all or some of the factors below exist.

  • The criminal’s motive(s)
  • Opportunities to commit fraud
  • Fraud criminals’ capabilities
  • Rationalisations for committing fraud

First, we’ll look at motives.


Motives are key antecedents to (causes of) fraud and can be seen as:

..the source of heat for the fire (Lister 2007)

"" © Georgeclerk / Getty Images

Fraud criminals could be motivated by:

  • Greed​
  • Financial need ​
  • The pathological desire for crime ​
  • The desire to beat the system – ‘catch me if you can’ attitude
  • Coercion (ie, people could be forced by their peers, family or superiors)​
  • Using funds to purchase criminal commodities ie, drugs or firearms
  • Ideology (ie, doing it for their idea of the ‘greater good’, such as the case of terrorist organisations)​


Lister, L.,M. (2007) ‘A Practical Approach to Fraud Risk: Comprehensive Risk Assessments Can Enable Auditors to Focus Antifraud Efforts on Areas Where Their Organization is Most Vulnerable’ Internal Auditor 64(6) 61-66

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This article is from the free online course:

Fraud Investigation: Making a Difference

Coventry University