How the fraudsters rationalise their behaviour

News Straits Times

By Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar
September 14, 2019 @ 11:48pm

Datuk Seri Akhbar Satar

ACCORDING to Bukit Aman statistics, 25,584 fraud cases were reported nationwide last year, with losses at RM23.9 billion.

The fraud triangle is a model to explain the factors that cause someone to commit fraud. Fraud can be defined as the “use of deception with the intention of obtaining an advantage” or “avoiding an obligation”.

Some of the most common types of fraud are cybercrime, bank fraud, identity theft, online fraud, corruption and financial statement fraud. The fraud triangle consists of three components which, together, lead to fraudulent behaviour:

PRESSURE: Usually financial in nature, including lifestyle, debt and gambling;

OPPORTUNITY: Weakness in internal controls and bad workplace culture are the basis of corrupt practices; and,

RATIONALISATION: An internal dialogue to make an excuse for one’s unethical behaviour.


The techniques of neutralisation have been emphasised as important reasons for deviant behaviour and are applicable to fraud. The final component needed to complete the fraud triangle is rationalisation.

The techniques were developed to explain the reasons, and those involved in fraud justify their criminal acts as techniques of neutralisation. It is an internal dialogue that comforts fraudsters and lets them know that it is all right to do this.

The mindset of the fraudsters justifies them to commit fraud. They have to come up with some reasoning to make the act of committing fraud more acceptable to them. Some rationalise that they are just going to borrow now and pay back later.

The view is that a delinquent is someone who redefines a deviant’s behaviour to be justifiable. In that person’s mind, committing crime becomes a reasonable action and not wrong.

Rationalisations fall into several typical patterns, as observed by American criminologist Gresham M. Sykes and sociologist David Matza, who came up with Techniques of Neutralisation: A Theory of Delinquency.


This first rationalisation is when fraudsters intend to dismiss responsibility for the law violation and plead ignorance. The excuses of such offenders are that the acts are due to forces outside personal control such as unloving parents, raised in welfare homes, peer group influence or bad neighbourhood.

They believe that they have no choice but to engage in crime and corruption. They give reasons such as “it was not my choice”, “I succumbed to my boss’s pressure and was forced to do it”.


The second technique is another defence mechanism, where offenders recognise that their behaviour is wrong but insist that it did not cause any harm to anyone.

In their case, there’s no real victim and therefore there’s no harm. People who use this technique make statements such as “the bank is insured”, “I have financial problems, so I will just borrow this money until the next payday”.


The offender transforms the illegal behaviour into a justifiable target. They believe that the victim deserved whatever action the offender committed. For example, by saying the bank deserved to be punished, or the rapists say the victim asked for it because of the way she was dressed.


This technique denounces the person who has alleged violation of the law. Condemning the victim is one of the ways in which offenders neutralise their guilty feelings.

In their opinion, the victim played an important role causing the crime. It involves shifting the blame from themselves. They place a negative image on those who opposed the criminal behaviour. They abdicate responsibility and blame others.

“My boss is more corrupted,” or “the police also break the law”.


This technique justifies violation of the law by conforming to the moral demands of another group affiliation.

Sykes and Matza say this usually occurs when something big is at stake. The crime was allegedly committed not for self-interest but out of obedience to some moral obligation. “The offence was necessary for my family and to help my friends.”

Some violate policies to get things done and achieve the strategic objectives of the company.

In this respect, the offender suggests that his or her offence is for the greater good, with long-term consequences that would justify his actions, such as to protect the boss. The techniques of neutralisation show how fraudsters rationalise their behaviour to criminality.

There are many examples of fraudsters using techniques of neutralisation to justify their actions. Some political leaders, public officers and private sector figures charged in court for corruption-related offences justify their unacceptable behaviour by saying they were only following their bosses’ criminal acts.

There are law-abiding individuals who are not criminals but still engage in corruption and get into trouble because they rationalise that “everybody does it”. One of the most intriguing findings of white-collar crime literature is that corrupt individuals tend not to view themselves as corrupt.

The techniques of neutralisation theory remain relevant and are being used in the ongoing dialogue concerning the motivations and perceptions of fraudsters. It is the most relevant technique for the fraudsters to commit the crime.

They will have an inner dialogue to make an excuse to commit a crime. This model explains why individuals engage in corruption that would otherwise violate their internal moral framework.

The writer holds a Professorial Chair for Crime and Criminology at Institute of Crime and Criminology, HELP University

Breathing exercise to help students de-stress

Saturday, 14 Sep 2019

Tan demonstrating the breathing techniques to HELP University diploma students at Pusat Bandar Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.

Simple breathing exercises can do wonders for students’ well-being.

HELP University under-graduates were given a demon-stration of these exercises by Art of Living Malaysia (AoL) teacher Tan Ying Shi at the university’s campus in Bukit Damansara, Kuala Lumpur.

She showed them the benefits of breathing, stretching and mindfulness techniques.

“A highly energised mind leads to a positive mindset. To help you study better, practise these breathing exercises consistently, ” said Tan, a quantity surveyor by profession.

“I hope it will help me focus on my studies better, ” he said.

Japanese student Yuzuki Murakami said: “I was able to refresh my mind and get enough energy to continue studying.”

Zhu Wen Juan, from China, said the mindfulness exercise made her feel more energised.

“I become more relaxed, I think controlled breathing is a good technique to manage my emotions.”

AoL is a non-profit organisation which teaches a breathing technique called sudarshan kriya, which is said to harmonise the mind and body as well as increase energy levels.

The techniques are taught during AoL’s Happiness Programme, which will take place from Sept 20 to 22 in Kuala Lumpur.

To register, call 012-284 0224 or 014-948 2334. For details on AoL, go to