Currently I am taking Professor Bradshaw‘s Fraud Examination class as an accounting elective. In the course we learned about the typical white-collar criminal and I believe most of us were surprised by the statistics. (I know I was!)
Maybe I have watched too many episodes of Law and Order: SVU, but I pride myself in being able to read others and anticipate who is the “bad guy” in a movie or TV show before it is revealed to the audience. Being able to read people is a valuable skill to have and, unfortunately, a necessary one because professionals in the workplace may not always be as honest as we hope they will be. In this respect, we cannot let stereotypes bias the way we view our colleagues and others in the professional environment.
Before discussing who is most likely to be a corporate fraudster, Professor Bradshaw prompted the class to describe the quintessential fraudster. In our minds, it would typically be the sinister looking professional who is either A) quiet and viewed to be anti-social or B) really aggressive. It is easy to convince yourself that the corporate “bad guys” are going to resemble the ones that you see in Hollywood dramas. However, statistically, the typical fraudster is not who you would expect.
Here are the characteristics of a typical corporate fraudster:
- Male, aged 35+
- Strong accounting/finance background and above average education
- In a position of trust
- Stable family/personal situation
- Good psychological health
- No criminal record
These characteristics, as Professor Bradshaw humorously pointed out, are more believable to be descriptive of the average McCombs professor, not a white collar criminal.
I would highly recommend Professor Bradshaw’s class if you are looking for an accounting elective to take! And remember to be wary in the workplace- the fraudster may not be who you most expect!
“It’s never the person you most suspect. It’s also never the person you least suspect, since anyone with half a brain would suspect them the most. Therefore I know the killer to be Phyllis, AKA Beatrix Bourbon, the person I most medium suspect.”
–Dwight (during a Murder Mystery on The Office)