The average fraud perpetrator has no prior fraud charges or convictions, is between the ages of 31 and 45, and is somewhat more likely to be male than female, according to new research by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners.

More than 80 percent of the frauds in its annual study of fraud trends around the world were committed by individuals in accounting, operations, sales, executive and upper management, customer service, and purchasing. The most common behavioral red flags displayed by the perpetrators in the study were living beyond their means (43 percent of cases) and experiencing financial difficulties (36 percent of cases).

Only 7 percent of the perpetrators had been previously convicted of a fraud offense, a finding consistent with prior ACFE studies.

“Fraudsters exhibit behavioral warning signs of their misdeeds,” said ACFE president James D. Ratley. “It’s important to remember that this human element of fraud — demonstrated in red flags such as living beyond one’s means or exhibiting control issues — is not identified through an audit or other traditional controls. This is why the staff at any organization should be trained to recognize these and other common behavioral signs that a fraud might be occurring. Moreover, they should be encouraged not to ignore such red flags, even when discovered by accident, as they might be the key to detecting or deterring a fraud.”

The ACFE’s 2010 Report to the National on Occupational Fraud and Abuse is available for download at

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