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Rationalisations for committing fraud

In this article, we look at some of the rationalisations fraud criminals use to justify their behaviour.
© Coventry University. CC BY-NC 4.0

Some criminals who commit fraud rationalise their behaviour to convince themselves that what they are doing is not wrong. ​

There are some individuals who do not view low-level fraud as a crime. Some examples of fraud which fall into this category are tax evasion or lying on application forms for credit cards or mortgages.

Justification of fraud does not matter to all types of fraud criminals, however. Some criminals do not need to rationalise their fraudulent acts because they are like ‘predators’ and have a pathological desire for committing a crime. They only look for opportunities to commit fraud without being caught.

Rationalisation of fraud can be viewed as

…the oxygen that keeps the fire burning (Lister 2007)​

"" © Gorodenkoff / Getty Images

How do fraud criminals rationalise their behaviour?​

In the graphic below, you can see some of the most common rationalisations fraud criminals use to explain their behaviour.

Picture of a man with speech bubbles showing the most common rationalisations for fraud 'They deserve it!' 'I just need to feed my family!' 'This is not fraud, it is just a lie!' 'I am only borrowing the money, I am not a thief!' 'Everybody does it!' Click to expand


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
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