When people hear the word, “embezzlement,” some might picture a greedy worker who wants to take a vacation in the Cayman Islands. Other people might envision an employee who is out for revenge against the employer for whatever reason, be it a denied pay raise, denied promotion or something else.

Many times, though, embezzlement stems from something else.

Desperation and coercion

Often, people embezzle because they, or their coercive spouses, see no other way out of a problem. It could be that they need to pay medical bills to get treatment for a child or must pay mortgage bills to keep their families in the home they have always known.

Who embezzles

The average embezzler does not have a criminal record and is in the late 40s. In the majority of cases, the embezzler is a woman.

Elements of a case

Embezzling tends to occur because the employer has made doing so easy. That is, creating false receipts, covering up cash deposits or other concealment moves would be relatively simple.

The average embezzlement case has three elements: pressure, opportunity and rationalization. In many situations, pressure is another word for desperation. It could be related to a problem the embezzlers experienced through no fault of their own such as a sick child. Or it could be to help finance an addiction. And then, yes, sometimes, there are employees who are out to get their employer. In such cases, “incentive” can be a better word than “pressure” to explain why the embezzling occurred.

The rationalization is frequently tied to the motivation. For example, “I’m doing this to keep my family together,” or, “I’ll get the money back next week and return it, so it is not really stealing.” In the case of a woman, it is often her male partner who pressures her to embezzle. Investigators and prosecutors generally do not make it a priority to hold these men accountable. Nor do many businesses; companies that uncover male embezzlers tend to ask the embezzler to leave and do not report it, while they fire female embezzlers and report them.