‘Common’ criminal also commits fraud

Most fraudsters commit a versatile range of crime during their lifetime. In that regard, they are more similar to “regular” criminals, rather than the white-collar criminals to whom they are often compared.

What does the criminal career of fraud offenders look like? The dominant view in literature is that of a white-collar criminal, with high social status and occupation, with few prior convictions who most likely is a “one-shot offender”.

This image is in sharp contrast with that of the ‘common’ criminal with a disadvantaged social background, a criminal record and a high risk of recidivism. Due to various changes in modern-day society, this classic divide has come under pressure. It appears that fraud is no longer limited to white-collar offenders, while most fraudsters also commit non-fraud offenses.

This diffuse image of a larger and more diverse group of offenders who commit fraud formed the background of a study into the criminal careers of offenders who had previously been convicted of fraud. The data of 1160 perpetrators was used to reconstruct the criminal careers between the ages of 12-50. Using these data, the authors examined to what extent these offenders eventually develop into specialised or versatile offenders.

The results showed that most fraudsters are indeed versatile in the sense that they often committed non-fraud crimes. At the same time there is an increased chance that fraudsters will commit the same type of fraud-offense again – which means some of them are specialised. The overall image that emerges from the criminal careers in this group is that of a heterogeneous group of which the majority also commits other offenses than fraud. Therefore the stereotypical distinction appears not to apply to the majority of the sample group.

Fraud offenses pose a growing concern to society. This study is the first Dutch research into the criminal careers of such offenders. The findings are of practical importance because they show that a part of this group of offenders has become less exceptional and therefore may not need a special approach.

For this study data was used from the Criminal Career and Life-Course Study (CCLS; Blokland, 2005), which in turn builds on data from a 1977 Dutch conviction cohort used by Van der Werff (1986) and Block and Van der Werff (1991) to examine short-term recidivism. Here we followed an offence-based approach and selected all 1160 offenders who were convicted of fraud at least once during the CCLS’s extended follow-up.

Read more
Geest, V.R. van der, Weisburd, D., & Blokland, A.A.J. 2016. Developmental trajectories of offenders convicted of fraud: A follow-up to age 50 in a Dutch conviction cohort. European Journal of Criminology. December 4, 2016, DOI: 10.1177/1477370816677620

Credits picture: Shutterstock

dr. Victor van der Geest

About dr. Victor van der Geest

Victor van der Geest is research fellow at the NSCR, and assistant professor at the VU University Amsterdam. He studied Developmental Psychology at the Leiden University. In 2011 he received his PhD (with honours) from the VU University for a dissertation on the criminal careers and employment pathways of a sample of formerly institutionalised youths. His current research focuses on developmental features of the criminal career, the link between (combined) adult transitions and crime, the effects of incarceration, and life-course explanations of white-collar crime.

Victor is a member of the Life-course Cluster and the Sanctions Cluster.

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