How do the three sides of the fraud triangle work together?

As you can see from the previous posts, all three sides of the fraud triangle work together.  A person has to have an opportunity to do something wrong combined with some sort of serious pressure along with a mindset to say that something that previously would have been wrong is now actually reasonable.

Lacking one side would stop the fraud.  If there is a wide open opportunity along with unbearable pressure but a realization that it would be horribly wrong to do something with likely jail sentence to follow, then there is no problem.  If there is terrible pressure combined with a mindset that it would be okay to take something, but no opportunity to do so (or the internal control procedures would quickly identify the problem), then again no problem.  Likewise if there is opportunity and rationalization but no motivation.  So all three sides need to be present for a fraud to take off.

Another factor that comes into play is that just like most things in life, there is a continuum of behavior when it comes to committing fraud.  Some people are wired so they would never steal.  Some people would in a flash.  Most people are in between.  The word picture used to describe this (assuming opportunity, motivation, and rationalization) is that if you had a pile of $100 bills on a table, 10% of people would not take anything if they worked in a room next to that table, by themselves, for eight hours a day.  Perhaps 10% of people would take a few bills from the table if you were on the other side of the table watching them but turned around for ten seconds.  You don’t need to do anything about the first 10% and you can’t do anything about the last 10%.  That leaves 80% in the middle.  Unfortunately, it is incredibly difficult to tell where anyone person is in that word picture.  The danger is the overwhelming pressures that can arise today could move someone from one group to another.

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