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Financial Morality of Poles: What types of fraud do we turn a blind eye to and why?

"Financial Morality of Poles" is a project that allows us to periodically analyze how we perceive financial fraud. We talk to Prof. Anna Lewicka-Strzałecka from the PAS Institute of Philosophy and Sociology about fraudulent activities we tend to tolerate and those that are the most difficult to us to justify.

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Polish Academy of Sciences: What are the conclusions of this survey?

Prof. Anna Lewicka-Strzałecka: Generally speaking, the public consent to consumer fraud is showing increasing tendencies. It is worth remembering, however, that the latest study was conducted during the coronavirus epidemic – a significant source of stress – which may have had some impact on the results.

Where does this consent come from?

The culture of unspoken consent creates an environment conducive to abuse. People who commit fraud, not only are not afraid of social ostracism, but can count on some kind of support of the environment. Examples include employers who pay the employees part of their salary under the table to help them avoid bailiff action or people who intentionally provide a false address of the debtor’s residence. The latter is particularly common for people avoiding alimony payments.

One of the sources of our consent to consumer rights violation is probably the image of a consumer fraud victimization emerging from the media message.

What is accepted?

The degree of consent to abuse can vary widely depending on the situation. Most respondents strongly condemn illegal extortion of money through the use of false documents. On the other hand, almost two-thirds of the respondents justify illegal employment in order to avoid paying off debts out of one’s salaries.

What can be done to improve the situation?

Changes to moral order are necessary. This, however, will certainly be a complex and challenging process, spread over time. The ethical standards of financial institutions also need to be improved. These institutions should be aware that such changes are profitable for them in the long run, as satisfied clients will be less likely to commit fraud.

The research was carried out as part of the "Financial  morality  of  Poles" project,  commissioned by the Związek  Przedsiębiorstw  Finansowych (ZPF). The survey was conducted among a nationwide, representative sample of 1,000 adults living in Poland. The survey is conducted once a year using the Computer Assisted Telephone Interviewing method. The last poll, fifth in a row, took place in April and May.