There is a degree of empathy in many people that can understand somebody in desperate need committing a crime, particularly a ‘victimless’ crime like fraud against a large business. Who is really hurt if the secretary is taking home stationery for her kids, or an individual inflates an insurance claim, both within reason?
More often than not, the stories that make the headlines are of the head honchos, the rich and successful defrauding businesses or vulnerable clients … and that can be more difficult to get our heads around. Most people rationalise this as just pure greed.
But other than the amount involved, is stealing stationery or defrauding a company of millions any different? Is stealing from the hand that feeds you not also just a form of greed? A corporation is just a business made up of people, all of whom work towards a common goal and need to make a living. The success of the corporation is what ultimately sustains the salary payments to the staff.
What motivates people to risk everything? The drive to ever-increase wealth and protect an extravagant way of life, or the drive to change a tough and trying way of life? Is it a matter of wealth itself or does wealth, or the lack thereof, create an attitude of entitlement?
And when it comes down to entitlement; whose is actually more prevalent? The wealthy who may feel as if they are above it all, as if their wealth gives them rights and privileges that others do not have? Or those without wealth, who may feel as if they ‘deserve’ to be wealthy, as if they have worked hard or been mistreated and not been sufficiently rewarded?
There is something innate in us that wants to back the little guy, who feels sure the big bad corporation in some way deserves what they have got; and there is something else in us that vilifies the wealthy for doing the same thing.
Taking more than you have earned, regardless of your station in life, is wrong. People are people, and it seems there is an almost insatiable capacity for greed in some.
In the end, fraud is not a victimless crime – the business owner and all the people that the business supports are victims.
Author: Kevin Phillips CA(SA) is Managing Director of idu Software