Steal Like a Boss

How do fraudsters think and act?

Can you steal like a boss? White collar crime takes special skills and thoughts. Do you have what it takes? Here’s my tongue-in-cheek look at how I would steal.

Steal Like a Boss

Picture Courtesy of iStockphoto.com

To steal, I need to:

  1. Be Believable
  2. Have a Cause
  3. Calm My Conscience
  4. Develop My Plan
  5. Execute My Plan
  6. If Caught, Settle Out of Court

1. Be Believable

I must be seen as trustworthy. The more age, experience, and education I have, the better. The longer I work for the organization, the more I will be trusted.

And while I’m at it, I’ll do what I can to move to positions of higher authority which will provide me with greater opportunities. Being the boss will enable me to steal like a boss.

If possible, I will gain the ability to authorize or initiate purchases. Kickbacks (paid to those who authorize payments) are difficult to detect, even by professional fraud examiners, and the dollars can be significant. Like stealing candy from a baby.

2. Have a Cause

Any financial pressure will do–a gambling or drug habit, an affair, medical bills, or maybe I just want to appear more successful than I am. If I don’t have a need, I will create one. I am my own cause.

My unshareable need (cause) must not be known by others lest they suspect my need for cash.

3. Calm My Conscience

I hate when that little voice starts talking: “Charles, you can’t do this. Your grandmother would be so ashamed.” It takes skill and fortitude, but I must calm my conscience. All the more reason to have a cause (see point 2.). The more noble I can make my cause, the better. Something like, “I’ve earned this. The company should realize my greatness and provide me with appropriate compensation. I have three kids in college, and they need this. You know I really want to be good provider for my family.” I may need to start stealing borrowing or compensating myself in small amounts and then build up. This will make it easier for my conscience to adjust.

I need to think correctly. When that little voice speaks, I will reword those thoughts. I know I am right.

4. Develop My Plan

I will pay attention to control weaknesses.

Our auditors have told us for years that we lack appropriate segregation of duties. Opportunity awaits.

If I am going to steal be compensated appropriately, I need to make it worth my while. Be bold. Think big. I have noticed that one of our key vendors has been very kind to me, a free week-long trip to Vegas for the last three years. And a key contract renewal is coming up. I think cash would be better this year. Besides, I know the CFO received an even sweeter trip than I did last year. And bribes gifts don’t hurt anyone; the vendor pays for them (though I have noticed the vendor’s pricing seems to be increasing…actually, exploding).

5. Execute My Plan

Take Compensate myself in a steady under-the-radar kind of way. Most folks get greedy. I must be diligent to work in a measured way, not taking receiving more than would be noticed. Greed is my enemy, the element that lands good guys like me in the newspapers.

Also, I think I can consistently steal borrow money from the receipts cycle since I am in charge of daily deposits and all related accounting duties. This might cost me my vacation though. I need to be on the job to continue to hide perform my duties. But if the funds taken compensation is enough, I can forgo the Vegas trip.

6. If I Get Caught, Settle Out of Court

If I am discovered someone notices that I have borrowed funds, then I may have to beg for forgiveness and promise to pay it back. And, of course, I need to make sure the company understands my concern for its reputation; news like this does not coalesce well with the company’s mission statement: Honesty and Compassion for Those We Serve.

I don’t need a criminal record, especially if I need to steal borrow funds from my next employer.

More Fraud Information

You’ll find more information about fraud prevention in my book: The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention.

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15 thoughts on “Steal Like a Boss

  1. Yes Armando. It is good to keep these signs in mind. I believe most organizations have some level of fraud, hopefully not significant, but nonetheless existent.

  2. RE: “How to Steal Like a Boss”
    Charles, I find your articles consistently provide good information and this tongue in cheek look at a real threat is worth a read – even better for small business owners so maybe some of us serving those businesses can share with our bosses.

    • Lise, thanks for the comment. I do hope you will share this post with your clients. I really believe most small business owners have no idea how vulnerable they are. And even if they do, they seem to think fraud only happens to the other guy (because they trust their own employees too much).

    • Lise, if you like this post, you may find my fraud book of interest. It goes into much greater detail. You will see the book icon on the landing page of my blog. It’s a quick read–less than 100 pages.

  3. I’m convinced that Cressey’s non-shareable problem leg of the fraud triangle is incomplete, if not irrelevant. Everyone has some non-shareable problem. One non-shareable problem that Cressey seems to virtually ignore is simple greed. Wouldn’t most of us love to have more? More of everything? Today, we are literally bombarded with media depictions of seemingly endless wealth and prosperity enjoyed by a limited few people. Doesn’t our base instinct for survival tend to drive us toward accumulating wealth? Clearly, in today’s world, this basic instinct has been allowed to flourish to absurd proportions in some cases. But the underlying drive is there in all of us, bonded deeply with our nature. Today, almost everyone seems to possess the non-shareable problem of being greedy.

    I agree with the rationalization aspect of Cressey’s theory up to a point, except that I think it’s more often that once the perpetrator can manufacture an adequate rationalization for him/herself, that becomes the trigger for the fraud to begin. I also think that one of the most common rationalizations is, “Can I get away with it?” It also occurs to me that virtually all humans seem to be able to rationalize almost any conceivable behavior.

    So, of Cressey’s three legs of fraud, the fraud triad, I think the first two are relatively insignificant, if not completely irrelevant. We all have problems, and given enough time, the human brain can rationalize virtually any behavior. The place for us to focus our attention on is opportunity. That is where internal controls and risk analysis come together.

    • Benson, absolutely. If you take away opportunity, you have solved the fraud problem. I agree that many people today have the “greed” problem, and, for many, that’s all that is needed to induce fraudulent actions. Thanks for your comment.

    • Benson – Funny that you bring this up. We just had a prospect in our office asking for suggestions of services after having discovered they were taken for a ride by the treasurer of the company, who is a CPA. They got a forensic report and now are contemplating a yearly audit. Anyway, the guy stole over $200k over the last several years, and sold phony shares of the company for another $300k, plus has stolen another $500k from another company. When we talked about the rationalization, they said that the he told them he wanted to see “if he could get away with it!”

      • John, I once saw a doctor steal over $1 million. His reason: trying to keep up with his wealthy brother (who was a successful attorney). People don’t need much of a reason to steal anymore.

  4. Excellent post – and an appropriate reminder given the recent issues with Wells Fargo. Maybe one of the aspects of “Develop a Plan” can be to strategize in order to tag the blame on someone else and act “boss-like” by firing accordingly (in hopes of avoiding personal scrutiny.)