The Mind of the Embezzler

I’ve often said that our embezzlers fall neatly into two categories, which I labeled the “Needy” and the “Greedy”.  The Needy are exactly what you expect; some life event has made their finances unworkable, and they are stealing to preserve the basics of life.  Some of the events that might prompt this include an addiction, a spouse losing his or her job, or a divorce.  Stealing is done because the thief feels that they have exhausted their other options.
The Greedy are a bit different (and fascinating — I keep threatening to write a book about them — perhaps this column is the start :-).  These people steal to scratch an emotional itch, not a financial one.  We are completing an investigation now where the thief won a seven-figure lottery prize, and after winning the money– get this — kept stealing.  These thieves get some kind of “endorphin rush” when they steal and it becomes addictive.
The Greedy thieves I have met are smart people and in many cases are close to being the intellectual peers of the dentists they work for.  I think that at some level they resentfully compare your wealth and status to their own, and decide to address the inequity that they perceive.
In contrast to the Needy, Greedy thieves tend to flaunt their “winnings”.  We have seen everything from top-end BMWs to boats to membership in the “Shoe of the Month Club” bought with YOUR money.
The good news is that our extremely popular Embezzlement Risk Assessment Questionnaire is excellent at ferretting out these thieves.  The Questionnaire provides a systematic way of capturing and evaluating the behaviors that are characteristic of embezzlement.