In a recent post I talked about the work of Keith Vaz as the chairman of the Home Affairs Select Committee, which has been responsible – among many other things – for a review into the UK’s proceeds of crime regime. Everyone seems to agree that Vaz has been an excellent chairman, and his questions and pronouncements around proceeds of crime certainly seemed well-informed and balanced. But, as you will all know by now, he has resigned because of a little local difficulty concerning allegations around rent boys. Since then, my husband and I have been debating what it is that makes people with so much to lose take such (alleged) risks: is it that you have to be a risk-taker to reach prominence in the first place (shrinking violets get nowhere), and then your appetite for thrills and danger needs constant feeding?
It has rather put me in mind of KPMG’s regular report into “The Profile of a Fraudster”, in which they – through surveys of firms that have fallen victim to fraud – put together the main characteristics of white collar criminals. In their latest version (published in May 2016 and summarised in this handy infographic), it seems that fraudsters are generally well-liked, co-operative (“fraudsters need to collude to circumvent controls”) and overwhelmingly male, and nearly half of them have “unlimited authority” (which is handy when circumventing those controls). Interestingly, when you look at the full KPMG report and delve into the reasons fraudsters give for their actions, although greed is popular, over a quarter of them do it simply “because I can”.
I used to think that confidence tricksters were so-called because they gain your confidence, but maybe the name is cleverer than that: they do gain your confidence, but they also have confidence. Confidence in their story, confidence in their abilities, confidence in the weakness of their victim – and this confidence prompts them to take risks.