Steal Like a Boss (and Feel Good About It)

By Charles Hall | Fraud

Jun 18

Can you steal like a boss? White collar crime takes special skills and thoughts. Do you have what it takes? Here’s my tongue-in-cheek look at how I would steal.

Steal Like a Boss


Six Steps to Steal Like a Boss

To steal, I need to:

  1. Be Believable
  2. Have a Cause
  3. Calm My Conscience
  4. Develop My Plan
  5. Execute My Plan
  6. If Caught, Settle Out of Court

1. Be Believable

Look trustworthy. The more age, experience, and education I have, the better. The longer I work for the organization, the more I am trusted.

And while I’m at it, I’ll do what I can to move to positions of higher authority which will provide me with greater opportunities. Being in authority enables me to steal like a boss.

If possible, I will gain the ability to authorize or initiate purchases. Kickbacks (paid to those who authorize payments) are difficult to detect, even by professional fraud examiners, and the dollars can be significant. Like taking candy from a baby.

But before I steal, I need motivation. 

2. Have a Cause

Any financial pressure will do–a gambling or drug habit, an affair, medical bills, or maybe I just want to appear more successful than I am. If I don’t have a need, I will create one. I am my own cause.

My unshareable need (cause) must not be known by others lest they suspect my need for cash. 

One problem I must take care of before I steal is my conscience.

3. Calm My Conscience

I hate when that little voice starts talking: “Charles, you can’t do this. You’ll embarrass your wife.” It takes skill and fortitude, but I must calm my conscience. All the more reason to have a cause (see point 2.). The nobler I can make my reasons, the better. Something like, “I’ve earned this. The company should realize my greatness and provide me with appropriate compensation. I have three kids in college, and they need my support. You know I want to be a good provider for my family.”

I may need to start stealing borrowing or compensating myself in small amounts and then build up. Such wise reasoning will make it easier to calm my conscience.

Thinking correctly is important. When that little voice speaks, I will rephrase the words. I know I can. After all, I’ve done so for years.

Now I need to develop a plan.

4. Develop My Plan

I will pay attention to control weaknesses.

Our auditors have told us for years that we lack appropriate segregation of duties in regard to purchasing. Opportunity awaits.

If I am going to steal be compensated appropriately, I need to make it worth my while. Be bold. Think big. I have noticed that one of our key vendors has been very kind to me, a free week-long trip to Vegas for the last three years.

A key contract renewal is coming up. The vendor should be more generous to me. Besides, last year the CFO received a nicer trip than I did (two weeks in Austria). And bribes gifts don’t hurt anyone; the vendor pays for them (though I have noticed the vendor’s pricing seems to be increasing…actually, exploding).

It’s game time. I need to “just do it.” But how?

5. Execute My Plan

Take I must compensate myself in a steady under-the-radar kind of way. Most folks get greedy. I must be diligent to work in a measured way, not taking receiving noticeable amounts. Greed is my enemy. Excess might land me on the front page of the paper.

Also, I think I can steal borrow money from the receipts cycle since I am in charge of daily deposits and all related accounting duties. This might cost me my vacation though. I need to be on the job to continue to hide perform my duties. But if the funds taken compensation is enough, it might be worth it.

But what if my actions become known to others?

6. If I Get Caught, Settle Out of Court

If I am discovered someone notices that I have borrowed funds, then I may have to beg for forgiveness and promise to pay it back. And, of course, I need to make sure the company understands my concern for its reputation. News like this does not support the company’s mission statement: Honesty and Compassion for Those We Serve.

I don’t need a criminal record, especially if I need to steal borrow funds from my next employer. It is comforting to know that in many cases companies don’t prosecute for fear of public embarrassment. 

More Fraud Information

You’ll find more information about fraud prevention in my book: The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention.

See my series of fraud articles at White Collar Crime is Knocking at Your Door.

Buy Now

The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention

Do you desire to increase your knowledge of fraud prevention and detection? This book will get you there quickly. Click the "buy now" button to see the book on Amazon.


About the Author

Charles Hall is a practicing CPA and Certified Fraud Examiner. For the last thirty-five years, he has primarily audited governments, nonprofits, and small businesses. He is the author of The Little Book of Local Government Fraud Prevention, The Why and How of Auditing, Audit Risk Assessment Made Easy, and Preparation of Financial Statements & Compilation Engagements. He frequently speaks at continuing education events. Charles consults with other CPA firms, assisting them with auditing and accounting issues.

  • Charles Hall says:

    Kimberly, now that is truly innovative!

  • Kimberly Moore says:

    Excellent post – and an appropriate reminder given the recent issues with Wells Fargo. Maybe one of the aspects of “Develop a Plan” can be to strategize in order to tag the blame on someone else and act “boss-like” by firing accordingly (in hopes of avoiding personal scrutiny.)

  • Charles Hall says:

    John, I once saw a doctor steal over $1 million. His reason: trying to keep up with his wealthy brother (who was a successful attorney). People don’t need much of a reason to steal anymore.

  • John says:

    Benson – Funny that you bring this up. We just had a prospect in our office asking for suggestions of services after having discovered they were taken for a ride by the treasurer of the company, who is a CPA. They got a forensic report and now are contemplating a yearly audit. Anyway, the guy stole over $200k over the last several years, and sold phony shares of the company for another $300k, plus has stolen another $500k from another company. When we talked about the rationalization, they said that the he told them he wanted to see “if he could get away with it!”

  • Charles Hall says:

    Benson, absolutely. If you take away opportunity, you have solved the fraud problem. I agree that many people today have the “greed” problem, and, for many, that’s all that is needed to induce fraudulent actions. Thanks for your comment.

  • Benson says:

    I’m convinced that Cressey’s non-shareable problem leg of the fraud triangle is incomplete, if not irrelevant. Everyone has some non-shareable problem. One non-shareable problem that Cressey seems to virtually ignore is simple greed. Wouldn’t most of us love to have more? More of everything? Today, we are literally bombarded with media depictions of seemingly endless wealth and prosperity enjoyed by a limited few people. Doesn’t our base instinct for survival tend to drive us toward accumulating wealth? Clearly, in today’s world, this basic instinct has been allowed to flourish to absurd proportions in some cases. But the underlying drive is there in all of us, bonded deeply with our nature. Today, almost everyone seems to possess the non-shareable problem of being greedy.

    I agree with the rationalization aspect of Cressey’s theory up to a point, except that I think it’s more often that once the perpetrator can manufacture an adequate rationalization for him/herself, that becomes the trigger for the fraud to begin. I also think that one of the most common rationalizations is, “Can I get away with it?” It also occurs to me that virtually all humans seem to be able to rationalize almost any conceivable behavior.

    So, of Cressey’s three legs of fraud, the fraud triad, I think the first two are relatively insignificant, if not completely irrelevant. We all have problems, and given enough time, the human brain can rationalize virtually any behavior. The place for us to focus our attention on is opportunity. That is where internal controls and risk analysis come together.

  • armando balbin says:

    I like the six. May be for me the best is No. 3, “Calm my Conscience”

  • Charles Hall says:

    Thanks Armando. It’s the psychology of the fraudsters that drives thefts.

  • […] — CPA-Scribo – Steal Like a Boss – Charles Hall has a tongue-in-cheek discussion of how a fraudster might describe a fraud. Good job […]

  • Charles Hall says:

    Lise, if you like this post, you may find my fraud book of interest. It goes into much greater detail. You will see the book icon on the landing page of my blog. It’s a quick read–less than 100 pages.

  • Charles Hall says:

    Lise, thanks for the comment. I do hope you will share this post with your clients. I really believe most small business owners have no idea how vulnerable they are. And even if they do, they seem to think fraud only happens to the other guy (because they trust their own employees too much).

  • Lise G Seedroff says:

    RE: “How to Steal Like a Boss”
    Charles, I find your articles consistently provide good information and this tongue in cheek look at a real threat is worth a read – even better for small business owners so maybe some of us serving those businesses can share with our bosses.

  • […] at what might be going through the mind of a person stealing from your ministry, check out how to Steal Like A Boss, from Charles Hall’s blog, […]

  • Charles Hall says:

    Yes Armando. It is good to keep these signs in mind. I believe most organizations have some level of fraud, hopefully not significant, but nonetheless existent.

  • armando balbin says:

    Good to keep present.

  • >