Embezzlement, a form of white-collar crime wherein individuals misappropriate funds they’ve been trusted to manage, is a breach of trust and a significant financial blow to organizations. The profile of those who commit embezzlement can be varied and complex, with motivations ranging from financial pressure to opportunistic gain.
Insights from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners (ACFE) in its Report to the Nations: 2020 Global Study on Occupational Fraud and Abuse shed light on common characteristics of embezzlers. This provides valuable information for understanding and preventing these crimes.
Who commits embezzlement?
The ACFE’s comprehensive study, which examined over 2,500 cases of workplace fraud, offers a detailed demographic profile of embezzlers. A notable finding is that most individuals convicted of embezzlement had no prior criminal charges, challenging the stereotype that only habitual criminals commit such acts.
Interestingly, more than 70% of embezzlers were found to be men, with a significant portion, over half, falling between the ages of 31 and 45 years old. These individuals predominantly held roles in operations, accounting, sales or upper management, highlighting the importance of position and access in the likelihood of committing embezzlement.
Financial impact by position
The study also revealed a correlation between the embezzler’s position within the company and the amount of money lost due to their actions. Due to their high-level access and control over more extensive resources, executives accounted for the highest median loss at $600,000.
With significant but less access than executives, managers caused a median loss of $150,000. Lower-level employees, whose access to funds is typically more limited, were responsible for a median loss of $60,000.
Motivations and behavioral red flags
The ACFE report identified living beyond one’s means as the most notable red flag in 42% of cases. Financial difficulties and personal issues, such as divorce or family problems, were also significant, with 26% and over 10% of cases, respectively.
This profile of a person likely to embezzle may come into play as part of a criminal case. Anyone facing these charges must ensure they fully understand the case against them so they can fight against them as successfully as possible. Having a legal representative who understands these charges is beneficial for those facing allegations of wrongdoing in this regard.