Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 63, Issue 1–2, pp 49–64 | Cite as

Explaining fraud deviancy attenuation in the United Kingdom

  • Mark Button
  • Martin Tunley


Fraud is one of the most costly crimes to society. There have been a number of studies documenting the low priority and resources allocated to fraud, but there has been little attempt to conceptualise the processes which lead to this. This paper develops a concept that is the antithesis to deviancy amplification, deviancy attenuation, to examine why the level of resources and interest in fraud are not commensurate with the size of the problem. The paper also develops two further reverse concepts to further explain attenuation: de-labelling and immoral phlegmatism. Empirical evidence is offered in the form of case studies, statistical and survey data to support the arguments presented. The paper also illustrates these arguments through the comparison of the response to benefits fraud in the United Kingdom, which can be considered the one exception amongst frauds where labelling, moral panics and deviancy amplification occurs; explained by some Marxist commentators as a consequence of it being a lower class crime actively pursued by the powerful.


Criminal Justice System White Collar Crime Moral Panic Criminal Prosecution Financial Service Authority 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



This research received no specific grant from any funding agency in the public, commercial, or not-for-profit sectors.


  1. 1.
    ACFE. (2012). Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse 2012 Global Study. Austin: ACFE.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Anderton, B., & Kiely, J. (1988). Employee Theft. Personnel Review, 17(5), 37–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. 3.
    Association of British Insurers (2003). What is Dishonest? Accessed 26 November 2007.
  4. 4.
    Australian Bureau of Statistics (2012). Personal Fraud 2010–2011. ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/65767D57E11FC149CA2579E40012057F?opendocument. Accessed 19 February 2012.
  5. 5.
    Barak, G. (2012). Theft of a Nation: Wall St Looting and Federal Regulatory Colluding. Lanham: Rowman and Littlefield.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
    Becker, H. (1963). Outsiders: Studies in the sociology of deviance. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Berman, G. (2012). Police Service Strength. London: House of Commons Library.Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Blunt G and Hand D J (2007). Estimating the Iceberg: How Much Fraud is there in the UK? Accessed 16 December 2008.
  9. 9.
    Bottomley, A. K., & Coleman, C. A. (1981). Understanding Crime Rates. Farnborough: Saxon House.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    Braithwaite, J. (1989). Crime, Shame and Integration. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. 11.
    Brand, S., & Price, R. (2000). The Economic and Social Costs of Crime. Home Office Research Study 217. London: Home Office.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. 12.
    Brooks, G., Button, M., & Gee, J. (2012). The scale of healthcare fraud: a global evaluation. Security Journal, 25, 76–87.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. 13.
    Button, M. (2011). Fraud Investigation and the ‘Flawed Architecture’ of Counter Fraud Entities in the United Kingdom. International Journal of Law Crime and Justice, 39, 249–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. 14.
    Button, M., Blackbourn, D., Lewis, C. and Shepherd, D. (Forthcoming). Uncovering the Hidden Cost of Staff Fraud: An Assessment of 45 Cases in the UK. Journal of Financial Crime.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
    Button, M., Gee, J., & Brooks, G. (2012). Measuring the cost of fraud: an opportunity for the new competitive advantage. Journal of Financial Crime, 19(1), 65–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. 16.
    Button, M., Lewis, C., & Tapley, J. (2014). Not a victimless crime: the impact of fraud on individual victims and their families. Security Journal, 27(1), 36–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. 17.
    Button, M., & Leys, C. (2013). Healthcare Fraud in the New NHS Market - A Threat to Patient Care. London: Centre for Health and the Public Interest.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Button, M., Tapley, J., & Lewis, C. (2013). The ‘fraud justice network’ and the infra-structure of support for individual fraud victims in England and Wales. Criminology and Criminal Justice, 13, 37–61.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. 19.
    Coffey, A. (2014). Real Voices: Child Exploitation in Greater Manchester. An Independent Report by Ann Coffey, MP, October 2014. Accessed 25th November 2014.
  20. 20.
    Cohen, S. (1972). Folk devils and moral panics: The creation of the mods and rockers. London: MacGibbon and Kee.Google Scholar
  21. 21.
    Coleman, C., & Moynihan, J. (1996). Understanding crime data: Haunted by the dark figure. Buckingham: Open University Press.Google Scholar
  22. 22.
    Connor, S. (2007). We’re onto you: a critical examination of the department for work and pensions’ targeting benefit fraud’ campaign. Critical Social Policy, 27, 231–252.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 23.
    Cook, D. (1989). Rich law, poor law: Different responses to tax and supplementary benefit fraud. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  24. 24.
    Cook, D. (1997). Social divisions of welfare: Tax and social security fraud. In A. Robertson (Ed.), Unemployment, social security and the social division of welfare: A Festschrift in Honour of Adrian Sinfield. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh.Google Scholar
  25. 25.
    Daily Mirror (2012). Call this justice? City banker steals £1.4 m… no charge. Shop worker steals £10 k… 9 months Accessed 26 February 2014.
  26. 26.
    Dean, H., & Melrose, M. (1997). Manageable discord: Fraud and resistance in the social security system. Social Policy and Administration, 31, 103–118.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. 27.
    Department for Work and Pensions (DWP). (2010). Tackling fraud and error in the benefit and tax credit systems. London: Department for Work and Pensions.Google Scholar
  28. 28.
    Ditton, J. (1977). Part time crime: An ethnography of fiddling and pilferage. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  29. 29.
    Dubourg, R., & Hamed, J. (2005). The economic and social costs of crime against individuals and households 2003–04. London: Home Office.Google Scholar
  30. 30.
    Federal Trade Commission (2007). 2006 Identity Theft Survey Report. os/2007/11/SynovateFinalReportIDTheft2006.pdf. Accessed 16 March 2010.
  31. 31.
    Financial Services Authority (2012) Final Notice. Accessed 12 September 2013.
  32. 32.
    Fitzgerald, M. (2014) Falling Crime or Flawed Statistics?. Presentation at BSC/Mannheim seminar, LSE, 15 January 2014.Google Scholar
  33. 33.
    Fraud Review Team (2006) Final Report. London: The Legal Secretariat to the Law Offices. Accessed 8 August 2011.
  34. 34.
    Gannon, R., & Doig, A. (2010). Ducking the answer? Fraud strategies and police resources. Policing and Society, 20, 39–60.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. 35.
    Gee, J., Button, M., & Bassett, P. (2011). Fraud Loss Measurement - A Short Guide to the Methodology and Approach. London: PKF.Google Scholar
  36. 36.
    Golding, P. (1999). Thinking the unthinkable: Welfare reform and the media. In B. Franklin (Ed.), Social policy, the media and misrepresentation (pp. 146–159). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  37. 37.
    Golding, P., & Middleton, S. (1982). Images of welfare. Oxford: Martin Robertson.Google Scholar
  38. 38.
    Gordon, M. (Executive Producer) & Littlewood, D. (Presenter) (2013.) Jones/Stuart [Television series episode]. In A. Kreps (Series Producer), Saints and Scroungers. London: BBC 2.Google Scholar
  39. 39.
    Grover, C. (2005). Advertising social security fraud. Benefits, 13, 199–205.Google Scholar
  40. 40.
    Hatch, G. & McMurtry, V. A. (2010). Improper Payments Information Act of 2002: Background, Implementation, and Assessment. Congressional Research Service, RL34164, October 04, 2010.Google Scholar
  41. 41.
    Hoare, J. (2007). Deceptive evidence: Challenges in measuring fraud. In M. Hough & M. Maxwell (Eds.), Surveying Crime in the 21st Century (pp. 263–279). Cullompton: Willan.Google Scholar
  42. 42.
    Home Office (2012). Number of offences reported, recorded and no-crimed by police force area table. of offences statistics/research-statistics/crime-research/prc-no-crime/. Accessed 08 January 2013.
  43. 43.
    Home Office (2013). Crime Against Businesses: Headline Findings from the2012 Commercial Victimisation Survey. /uploads/ attachment_data/file/147935/crime-business-prem-2012-pdf.pdf. Accessed February 19 2014.
  44. 44.
    Huff, R., Desilets, C., & Kane, J. (2010). The 2010 National Public Survey on White Collar Crime. Fairmont: National White Collar Crime Center.Google Scholar
  45. 45.
    Insurance Fraud Bureau. (2013). ‘Crash-for-cash’ Putting the Brakes on Fraud. London: Insurance Fraud Bureau.Google Scholar
  46. 46.
    Jewkes, Y. (2011). Media and Crime (2nd ed.). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  47. 47.
    Karstedt, S., & Farrall, S. (2006). The moral economy of everyday life. British Journal of Criminology, 46(6), 1011–1036.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. 48.
    Koffman, L. (1996). Crime surveys and victims of crime. Cardiff: University of Wales Press.Google Scholar
  49. 49.
    Levi, M. (1986). Investigating fraud. Policing, 2, 196–211.Google Scholar
  50. 50.
    Levi, M. (1987). Regulating fraud: White collar crime and the criminal process. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  51. 51.
    Levi, M. (2006). The media construction of financial white-collar crimes. British Journal of Criminology, 46, 1037–1057.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. 52.
    Levi, M., & Burrows, J. (2008). Measuring the impact of fraud in the UK: a conceptual and empirical journey. British Journal of Criminology, 48, 293–318.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. 53.
    Maguire, M. (2012). Criminal statistics and the construction of crime. In M. Maguire, R. Morgan, & R. Reiner (Eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Criminology (5th ed., pp. 206–244). Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. 54.
    Mann, D., & Sutton, M. (1998). Net crime: more change in the organisation of thieving. British Journal of Criminology, 38, 202–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. 55.
    Mars, G. (1983). Cheats at work: An anthropology of workplace crime. London: Unwin.Google Scholar
  56. 56.
    Murji, K. (2001). Moral Panic. In E. McLaughlin & J. Muncie (Eds.), The Sage Dictionary of Criminology. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  57. 57.
    National Fraud Authority. (2010). Annual Fraud Indicator. London: National Fraud Authority.Google Scholar
  58. 58.
    National Fraud Authority. (2012). Annual Fraud Indicator. London: National Fraud Authority.Google Scholar
  59. 59.
    National Fraud Authority. (2013). Annual Fraud Indicator. London: National Fraud Authority.Google Scholar
  60. 60.
    Office for National Statistics (2014). Crime in England and Wales, Year Ending June 2014. Accessed 26 November 2014.
  61. 61.
    Office of Fair Trading, (2006). Fraud review final report: A consultation response by the Office of Fair Trading. London: Office of Fair Trading.Google Scholar
  62. 62.
    Pontell, H. N., Black, W. K., & Geis, G. (2014). Too big to fail, too powerful to jail? On the absence of criminal prosecutions after the 2008 financial meltdown. Crime, Law and Social Change, 61(1), 1–13.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. 63.
    Shury, J., Speed, M., Vivian, D., Kuechel, A., & Nicholas, S. (2005). Crime against retail and manufacturing premises: Findings from the 2002 commercial victimization survey. London: Home Office.Google Scholar
  64. 64.
    Slapper, G., & Tombs, S. (1999). Corporate Crime. Harlow: Pearson Education Limited.Google Scholar
  65. 65.
    Smith, A. (2006). Crime statistics: An independent review. London: Home Office.Google Scholar
  66. 66.
    Sutherland, E. (1949). White Collar Crime. New York: Holt.Google Scholar
  67. 67.
    Sutton, M. (2007). Improving national crime surveys: With a focus upon strangely neglected offenders and their offences, including fraud, high-tech crimes, and handling stolen goods. In M. Hough & M. Maxwell (Eds.), Surveying Crime in the 21st Century (pp. 243–261). Cullompton: Willan.Google Scholar
  68. 68.
    Tannenbaum, F. (1938). Crime and the Community. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  69. 69.
    Tombs, S., & Whyte, D. (2007). Safety Crimes. Cullumpton: Willan.Google Scholar
  70. 70.
    Tunley, M. (2014). Mandating the measurement of fraud: Legislating against loss. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. 71.
    Tunley, M. (2011). Uncovering the iceberg: Mandating the measurement of fraud in the UK. International Journal of Law Crime and Justice, 39(3), 190–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. 72.
    Tunley, M. (2011). Need, greed or opportunity? An examination of who commits benefit fraud and why they do it. Security Journal, 24, 302–319.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. 73.
    US Department of Justice (2011). Identity Theft Reported by Households 2005–2010. Accessed 07 February 2013.
  74. 74.
    Walker, M. A. (1995). Statistics of offences. In M. A. Walker (Ed.), Interpreting crime statistics (pp. 4–23). Oxford: Clarendon.Google Scholar
  75. 75.
    Whyte, D. (2009). Crimes of the powerful. Buckingham: McGraw Hill Education.Google Scholar
  76. 76.
    Will, S., Pontell, H. N., & Brotherton, D. C. (2013). How they got away with it: White collar criminals and the financial meltdown. NY: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  77. 77.
    Wilkins, L. (1964). Social deviance: Social policy, action and research. London: Tavistock.Google Scholar
  78. 78.
    Wood, C. (2014). Back to Basics. Public Finance. December 2014, 35–37. Accessed 26 November 2014.

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of Criminal Justice StudiesUniversity of PortsmouthPortsmouthUK

Personalised recommendations