CRG 20/15-16: Coping with fraud offending over time: Offender accounts

Report to the Criminology Research Advisory Council

Although serious fraud is typically perpetrated over a prolonged time frame, fraud research has been heavily focused on the decision to commit fraud rather than the way it is sustained. Based on an analysis of 42 interviews with offenders who have committed serious fraud, we examine how fraud perpetrators continue to offend over extended periods. We find that fraudulent offending is frequently associated with strain for offenders including fear of detection, guilt and shame. We present a typology of strategies used by offenders to cope with this strain over the course of their offending comprising (1) problem-focused coping, (2) emotion-focused coping, (3) meaning-focused coping and (4) social-focused coping. While notions of rationalisation are germane for initial decisions to engage in fraud, we find limited recourse to rationalisation in the latter stages of offending. Offenders have often considerable scope for managing diverse, fragile, perhaps even contradictory, understandings of their selves. Control system implications for addressing organizational precipitators of fraud, including controlling situational prompts, pressures, work-based permissibility and provocations are discussed.