The latest thinking and expert insights into the insurance industry.
21 November 2016

Why We Are All Fraudsters

What turns people into fraudsters? Is it just opportunity or does it take more than that?
Peter Schimmel is partner at Forensic & Investigation services at Grant Thornton. This blog is based on his FRAUDtalk of 15 September 2016.


Paul and Bob are at Schiphol Airport with their 16-year-old daughters. They have known each other for more than ten years. Their daughters go to the same hockey club, they regularly go out for drinks together and sometimes the two families go on joint holidays, each in their own Volvo. Today their daughters are going to a summer school in Spain. They are flying to Madrid and will then take the bus to Salamanca for an intensive two-week language course. However, Paul knows that he has not yet paid his daughter’s tuition fees. For the simple reason that he does not have the required two thousand euros. Despite his well-paid job as a marketing manager, he lives a bit beyond his means.

After waving off their daughters, Paul goes to his work and writes a memo about a marketing event in Salamanca and gets the accounts department to transfer two thousand euros to a bank account in Spain.

It is not about opportunity 

why-we-are-all-fraudstersWe all know the expression ‘opportunity makes the thief’, but is this really true? PwC has done extensive research into aspects of fraud and ‘opportunity’ amounts to only 18%.

Some more interesting figures: did you know that 20% of employees in, for example, Great Britain have a criminal record? And that on average 50% of all people who have exchanged marriage vows have an affair? In other words, the people around us are not always who we think they are.

All things considered, we are actually aware that all of us occasionally, or in fact regularly, tell lies. Our daily communication comprises small and big lies. We all know this, yet we often strongly and rather unrealistically claim that ‘somewhat incorruptible does not exist’.

Wanting to belong

So what is the reason why we break the rules or not? The same PwC study shows that only 14% is about honesty, ultimately ethics are clearly not that important. The study shows that in 68% of the cases it is about pressure – the pressure of hunger, of needing money, of wanting to belong and, above all, of wanting to be accepted. As people we undergo a logical moral development that is based on wanting to belong to a group, because it offers safety and security. We focus on the norms, standards and values of the group we want to belong to. However, this is not always achievable.

Setting an example

Psychologist Lawrence Kohlberg studied the moral development of people – a field of behavioral ethics – and investigated group behavior. He wondered: ‘What if we could influence convention?’ We can, for example, train children by punishing and rewarding them, but in organizations and companies this no longer works. It would lead to mutiny. What does work is finding role models within the organization who determine the convention. Those are the people whose behavior, sometimes unknowingly, sets the norm. As CEO of ABN AMRO, Gerrit Zalm always takes the regular elevator to his office and on his way up he talks with everyone he bumps into. He is setting the tone at the bank for a culture of dialogue and being approachable.

Sergio Marchionne is CEO of, amongst others, Fiat. If you google him, you will find that he nearly always wears a jumper. Recently, I was in an airplane with four Italians who were all wearing a jumper. I asked them: ‘Do you by any chance work for Fiat?’ Surprised, they replied: ‘Yes.’ Almost unconsciously they copy the example set by their role model.

It’s about the top 

Obviously, role models are mainly found at the top: they are seen by everyone. When problems came to light at Imtech Poland, the organization sent large groups of employees worldwide on an integrity course. In my opinion that was useless: the Board of Directors itself should have gone on a course instead.

At Wells Fargo over five thousand employees worldwide committed fraud. They did not know each other, so they did not influence each other. But one person they all knew was the CEO, who immediately declared in his press statement that there was definitely no connection with his own bonus.

Culture change

What can we do? In any case make sure the atmosphere in the company improves. In Paul’s case, he should not have written a memo, but have had a good conversation with his boss. He could, for example, have offered to borrow the money and pay it back in terms. It would be even better still if Paul could say to his hockey mates: “Sorry, but at this point we can’t afford that holiday, that summer school or that party.” What we need is an environment that accepts everyone as they are.

CEO on a course

So it is not about opportunity. The funny thing is that I am an accountant and 95% of my colleagues, who work on many cases, are constantly looking for that opportunity. They rarely find one. What they should really do is talk to the CEO and send him on a course.


Thursday September 15th was the day FRAUDtalks saw the light. FRAUDtalks was invented by FRISS for everybody who works in the insurance industry and fights fraud. 150 Dutch and Belgium professionals gathered in the futuristic museum Beeld & Geluid in Hilversum. The program showcased six inspiring stories, all linked to the fraud topic.

Contact us

Cookie and Privacy Policy

1. Introduction

When you use this website, FRISS may collect information about your use of the website and the content offered. We believe it is important to handle your (personal) data with due care and confidentiality. When processing your personal data, we comply with the General Data Protection Regulation (Algemene Verordening Gegevensbescherming) and Article 11.7a of the Telecommunications Act (Telecommunicatiewet).

1.1.  Controller

The controller of the processing of personal data is:

FRISS Fraudebestrijding B.V.
Orteliuslaan 15
3528 BA

This processing of personal data is registered with the Dutch Data Protection Authority (Autoriteit Persoonsgegevens) in The Hague under reporting number m00004997.

1.2.  Purposes of data processing

There are several places on our website where you can fill in your (personal) data. We will explain the purposes of the various instances of data processing below.

Filling in the contact form or sending an e-mail

If you fill in the contact form on our website or send us an e-mail, we will only use the (personal) data you provide for the purpose or purposes for which you filled in the contact form or sent the e-mail.

Download form

If you download files on our website (such as e-books, whitepapers or reports), we will use the (personal) data you provide for one or more of the following purposes:

  • for the execution of an agreement, for example to send you the e-book, whitepaper or report you have chosen;
  • for the formation of an agreement, for example by contacting you by telephone or in writing.


If you fill in the application form for the newsletter on our website, your (personal) data will be used to send you the newsletter. Each newsletter contains a hyperlink at the bottom of the message that you can use to unsubscribe.

In addition to the personal data you provide to FRISS yourself, FRISS may collect, record and process additional (personal) data if you use the (web) services of FRISS. This concerns the following personal data:

  • data from the used equipment, such as a unique device ID, version of the operating system and settings of the device you use to access a service;
  • information about the use of a service, such as the time at which you use the service and the type of service that is used;
  • location details from your device or derived from your IP address that is provided to us when you use a particular service;
  • data available from external sources. We may receive information about you from public or commercially available sources.

1.3.  Provision of (personal) data to third parties

Your (personal) data will never be provided to third parties without your permission, unless we have an obligation to do so pursuant to legislation or regulations or you have given permission for this.

1.4.  Security of data

FRISS respects your privacy and ensures that personal data are handled confidentially and with the utmost care. All processed (personal) data is stored exclusively in secure databases. These databases are only accessible to employees of FRISS, to the extent that this access is required by virtue of their position. FRISS makes every effort to secure these systems against loss and/or any form of unlawful use or processing.

1.5.  Inspection, correction and deletion of data and the right to object

You can view your data that is processed by FRISS at any time and free of charge and, if you so wish, modify this data or have it deleted. You can also object to receiving information about products, services or content of FRISS. If you wish to make use of one of these options, you can send an e-mail to the Data Protection Officer of FRISS via privacy@friss.eu or write to the following address:

FRISS | fraud, risk & compliance
Attn. Data Protection Officer
Orteliuslaan 15
3528 BA Utrecht.

2. Cookies

When using this website, information about your use of these services and other websites may be collected by or on behalf of FRISS, for example by means of cookies.

A cookie is a small file that is sent along with pages of a website and stored by your browser on the hard disk of your computer. We use cookies to remember settings and preferences. You can disable these cookies via your browser.

2.1.  The purposes for which FRISS uses cookies

On our website we use cookies for the following purposes:

  • for statistical purposes, in order to analyse the use of FRISS websites. This allows us to keep track of the number of visitors and see which parts of our website are popular. We use Google Analytics in order to track and consult these statistics. On this website you can find explanations about all cookies that may be placed by Google;
  • for what is known as ‘targeting’ purposes, if you have used the download form. By targeting we mean building a profile of you based on your surfing behaviour on our website, after which we may contact you by telephone or e-mail based on the interests you have shown in order to offer you FRISS services that you may be interested in. We use HubSpot in order to track and consult these statistics. On this website you can find explanations about all cookies that may be placed by HubSpot;

3. Changes to this Cookie and Privacy Statement

FRISS may make changes to this Cookie and Privacy Statement. All modifications will be published on this page. We advise you to consult this Cookie and Privacy Statement regularly, so that you are always aware of the content of the current Cookie and Privacy Statement.