Embezzlement is a type of theft or fraud. Typically, someone steals from their workplace and then attempts to cover it up. For instance, someone in accounting may be able to reroute $100,000 to their own bank account every year and then doctor the books to make the money "disappear." The goal is more than simple theft. The goal is to have the crime fly under the radar so that no one knows it even happened.
Why do people do this? Researchers who have studied it found three major factors. They are:
Opportunities to steal money or assets come up more than people realize. It could be as simple as a cashier taking money out of the register or as complex as the cover-up noted above. When employees work with money or other assets, getting paid far less than the money they handle, it becomes alluring.
That said, they need some sort of pressure to push them into new territory. Many other employees have the same opportunities and they do not steal anything. Examples of pressure include drug addiction, impending bankruptcy, foreclosure or the inability to provide for a child's needs.
The person then uses this pressure to rationalize the action. It is easier for someone to decide to take money from an account when they will use it for something that they deem a "worthy" cause. They had a reason to act and decided it was worth the chance.
Of course, every case is different, but researchers found these common trends in many of them. Remember that anyone who gets accused of embezzlement or fraud has a right to a fair trial.