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The Fraud Triangle and Temptation (Part 2)

By sis Bernice Loh

2. Opportunity

Temptation to commit fraud increases when there is opportunity to do so, hence companies put in place internal controls to minimise such opportunities. For example, enforcing segregation of duties in the money collection process will minimise the opportunity for someone to engage in theft. This is because the various steps in the process are assigned to different people and no one person will have an excessive amount of control over the process.

Similarly, we should consider what internal controls we can put in place to prevent ourselves from sinning when the opportunity presents itself.

One form of internal control could be staying away or fleeing, just as how Joseph fled from Potiphar’s wife when she physically restrained him to tempt him into committing adultery with her (Genesis 39:11). God also tells us to flee from fornication, idolatry and youthful lusts (1 Corinthians 6:18, 10:14 and 2 Timothy 2:22). This was the opposite of what the young man in Proverbs 7 did. He continued to keep the company of a woman, even though she was dressed as a harlot (Proverbs 7:8-10), and allowed himself to be enticed by her “fair speech” or flattering talk into committing fornication (Proverbs 7:21-22).

As mentioned earlier, segregation of duties requires the involvement of different people throughout the process to minimise the opportunity for one person to commit fraud. Similarly, we can choose to involve trusted confidants when dealing with temptations which are hard to resist. Our confidants can encourage us, hold us accountable for our actions, and pray for us:

James 5:16 - Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed. The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.

3. Rationalization

Employees who commit fraud generally do not want to acknowledge that they are being unethical, hence they will come up with moral excuses to justify the fraud, i.e. they will rationalise their actions. For instance, an employee may justify stealing from the company because he does not get paid for all the overtime work that he has been doing.

When Judah did not keep his promise of allowing his youngest son to marry his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar (as required of the customs of those times), she decided to take matters into her own hands. She disguised herself as a prostitute to trick Judah into lying with her so that she could bear children for the family. (Genesis 38:13-16,27).

Judah had wrongly withheld his son from marrying Tamar and prevented her from bearing children for the family. However, Tamar’s sinful act of fornication is unjustifiable just because she wanted to right Judah’s wrongdoing.

Alarm bells should ring internally when we start trying to rationalize or justify any intention to sin. For example, we may try to justify gossiping about a nasty colleague because we want to ‘protect’ other colleagues from suffering a similar fate. The intention of protecting our colleagues may be a good one, but it does not change the fact that gossiping is a sin. Two wrongs do not make a right.

Just as how Jesus used the Scripture to ward off Satan’s attempts to tempt him (Luke 4), we should also be so familiar with God’s word (Psalms 119:11, Ezra 7:10) that we can immediately counter any fabricated “moral justification” for sinning.

Psalms 119:11 – Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.


The 10-80-10 Rule*

*Source: National Association of State Auditors, Comptrollers, and Treasurers (NASACT) and the Oregon State Controller’s Division

The 10-80-10 Rule supports the general assumption of capability by breakdown of the population, and the likelihood of fraud occurrences.

In the area of fraud, a great majority (80%) of people will commit such things if the conditions are right. Given the right combination of opportunity, pressure and rationalization, are we likely to give in to sin? It would be worthwhile to prepare ahead and consider how we can minimise pressures, eliminate opportunities and arrest any thoughts of rationalization to commit sin.

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