Skip main navigation

Motives for committing fraud

In this step, we outline fraud factors and the different motivators driving fraud criminals.
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

© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0
This article is from the free online

Fraud Investigation: Making a Difference

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now