Criminology and the Psychology of Fraud

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Course Level
Delivered via
Online Self-Study
4 Credits


To effectively combat fraud, it’s important to understand the context in which it occurs and the environmental and personal factors that can contribute to its prevalence. Criminology theories offer crucial lessons on the factors that can lead to fraud and related crimes. Additionally, it’s important for fraud examiners to understand what might motivate perpetrators and how they might rationalize their behaviors. 

This course will introduce you to the basics of criminology theories and examine how they relate to white-collar crime. Additionally, this course will discuss many of the psychological and environmental factors that can lead to fraud. A foundational knowledge of why and how fraud might occur is critical to both the detection and prevention of white-collar crime. 

Key Takeaways: 

  • Historical background of criminology
  • Psychological traits common to fraudsters
  • How workplace culture affects the occurrence of fraud
  • Why individuals choose to commit fraud
  • An understanding of the Fraud Triangle



You Will Learn How To:

Compare various criminological theories and their varying explanations of crime causation

Identify how criminological theories explain and predict white-collar crime

Recognize how organizational structure and climate can contribute to fraudulent behavior

Identify the unique aspects that distinguish fraud from other types of crime

Identify the weak psychological, organizational, and societal restraints that make fraud more likely to occur

Recognize some of the psychological traits that are common to fraudsters

Table of Contents

Part I Introduction to Criminology
Lesson 1 The Classical School
Lesson 2 Positivism
Lesson 3 Sociological Criminology
Part II White-Collar Crime and Criminology
Lesson 4 Other Aspects of Criminology
Lesson 5 White-Collar Crime Versus Street Crime
Lesson 6 The Costs of White-Collar Crime
Lesson 7 The Fraud Triangle
Lesson 8 Other Theories of Causation
Part III Organizational Structure and Fraud
Lesson 9 Organizational Climate
Lesson 10 The Normalization of Corruption
Lesson 11 Obedience to Authority
Part IV Individuals and Fraud
Lesson 12 Motivation
Lesson 12 Testimony
Lesson 13 Strain Theory and Pressure
Lesson 14 Rationalization and Neutralization
Lesson 15 Weak Restraints and Opportunity
Lesson 16 Deception
Lesson 17 Psychopathy and Sociopathy
Lesson 18 Conclusion

CPE Information

This course fulfills the annual ethics CPE requirement for CFEs. Learn more about the ethics CPE requirements for CFEs.
CPE Credit: 4
NASBA Information: Behavioral Ethics
Advanced Preparation: None
Last Updated: June 2023
Delivery Method: QAS Self-Study


CPE Credit

Please note: To be eligible for CPE credit, you must complete the final exam within one year of purchase date. You may only claim CPE credit for a course once.

ACFE Online Self-Study Courses


  • 24/7 access to courses through your Internet browser
  • Save time and quickly earn CPE credits with instant access, grading and printable certificate
  • The flexibility to start or stop a course and pick-up right where you left off
  • No additional shipping fees

Learn More about accessing your online self-study course

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System Requirements:

  • Internet access: High-speed connection recommended
  • Speakers required for video sound


The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, Inc. is registered with the National Association of State Boards of Accountancy (NASBA) as a sponsor of continuing professional education on the National Registry of CPE Sponsors. State boards of accountancy have final authority on the acceptance of individual courses for CPE credit. Complaints regarding registered sponsors may be submitted to the National Registry of CPE Sponsors through its website:


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