Why We Want to Get Inside the Mind of a Fraudster



Allan Bachman, CFE

ACFE Education Manager

Every year about this time, I am on the hunt for a white-collar criminal. Not just any white-collar criminal (there are plenty of those around), but one who is willing to be honest and face initially hostile yet ultimately appreciative attendees at our ACFE Annual Fraud Conference.

The criteria are tough. First, we do not pay these speakers; other organizations may choose to do so, but we adamantly refuse as a matter of principle and policy. Not surprisingly, our fraudster speakers have no issue with this and understand the importance of their thankless role at our conferences.

We ask fraudsters to tell their story from beginning to end. We ask they give an overview of their education and career, how they came to realize they could perpetrate a fraud, how they developed and managed the fraud, how they got away with it, how much they took, how it was used, how they were caught and how they paid for their crime (both criminally and personally). This is not an easy job, but all have done extremely well.

Many of these fraudsters travel the country speaking about fraud and ethics in the business programs of colleges and universities. In these sessions they give a clear ethical message. Our rationale is that we can hear about ethics and compliance from the good guys, but what we really want to understand is what goes on in the mind of a fraudster.

Many attendees who, for various reasons, miss the last session of the conference also miss an opportunity to hear these stories; some touching, some infuriating, and all tragic. The damage done from fraud is never more real than when a fraudster is standing on our stage in front of more than 2,000 attendees determined to fight the good fight against fraud.