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Fbi's Behavior Manual On Recognizing False Allegations

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A false allegation crime involves persons reporting a fabricated offense that has occurred against them to a law enforcement agency. Both men and women commit these crimes; however, women perpetrate the majority of them. A limited number of studies have focused on false allegations of adult crimes, with the majority of research addressing cases of rape and to a lesser degree stalking.1

These offenses occur throughout America every year. Unfortunately, they waste substantial investigative resources�needed for legitimate cases involving real victims�before authorities can identify them as false allegations. And, as noted in the quote from the crisis center worker, these false allegations can severely affect communities and the people who live and work there. Worse, they can make it harder for law enforcement agencies and citizens to take real victims of crime seriously.

Offender Motivations

Perpetrators of false allegation crimes have various underlying motivations that fall into one or more categories. Investigators may encounter cases involving more than one motivation.2

  • Mental illness/depression
  • Attention/sympathy
  • Financial/profit
  • Alibi
  • Revenge

A significant life problem (e.g., marital, financial, employment) that the offender does not have the skills to resolve drives the motivation. Many perpetrators have multiple life difficulties. Rather than seeking appropriate assistance from family members, coworkers, clergy members, or mental health professionals, offenders develop a self-victimization plan. These individuals may realize temporary relief from their life problems due to immediate attention and support from family, neighbors, and coworkers. And, more often than not, false allegations against offenders do not consider the serious, long-term law enforcement investigation or significant media coverage that reveals the truth. In the long run, offenders are worse off than before the false allegation crime report and even may face prosecution.

Typically, female offenders want to gain attention and sympathy and will falsely allege offenses, such as interpersonal violence (e.g., sexual assault), more likely to achieve that result. While the desire for attention and sympathy also can motivate males, they tend to opt for nonsexual offenses, such as physical assault or attempted murder.3 Offenders who falsely allege more impersonal crimes, like theft or vandalism, more likely will have financial or profit motives. And, in cases where the perpetrator has no motive or incentive, mental health issues may prove significant.


Law enforcement officers may find false allegation crimes complex and difficult to unravel. Further, investigators working closely with offenders may become so emotionally invested in the case that they have a hard time believing that the individual could be deceptive.

A suspected false allegation requires a two-pronged approach�covert and overt. Of course, overt investigation proves necessary in the early phase of the case before officers identify the complaint as a false allegation. If the claim is legitimate, investigators need to identify and apprehend the offender. They should use all normal resources and carefully protect the reporting victim�s reputation.

The covert investigation focuses on establishing whether the case involves a false allegation crime. Keeping this prong covert helps to avoid prematurely accusing a legitimate victim of a false allegation, prevent derailing the overt investigation, and preserve valuable information for the subject interview. Officers must gather all possible details concerning offenders. Because false allegation perpetrators have serious life problems motivating them, the covert investigation quietly must identify which issues trouble the individual. This type of information proves crucial during the interview process. Investigators need to examine offenders� personal relationships, employment situation, finances, past criminal history, and other areas of their life to identify any indication of abnormal stress.

Additionally, the covert investigation determines if the offender has made other false allegations or crime reports. Officers also should check with local emergency rescue departments or hospital emergency rooms to discover any false injury or illness reports made by the individual. As the covert investigation progresses, the lead investigator responsible for the overall coordination of the case should receive all information.

The experience of NCAVC and research related to this phenomenon have shown that false allegations of adult crimes usually involve only one offender. In most cases, the individual conducts preplanning, preparation, or staging of the crime scene.4 Fewer incidents of false allegation adult crime arise from spur-of-the-moment decisions. Many cases have involved more than one offense reported simultaneously to law enforcement (e.g., carjacking/extortion, abduction/rape). Investigators need to carefully scrutinize forensic evidence and injuries for inconsistencies.

The FBI�s National Center for the Analysis of Violent Crime (NCAVC)

NCAVC consists of four units, including three Behavioral Analysis Units (BAUs) and the Violent Criminal Apprehension Program (ViCAP) Unit. BAU-1 handles cases involving threat assessments or counterterrorism; BAU-2 addresses investigations of adult crimes, including serial or individual murder and serial sexual assaults; and BAU-3 deals with crimes involving child victims.

The three BAUs offer a broad array of operational services for investigators or prosecutors.

  • Crime analysis
  • Behavioral characteristics of unknown offenders
  • Personality assessments
  • Interview strategy
  • Search warrant affidavit assistance
  • Investigative strategy
  • Prosecutive/trial strategy
  • Expert testimony
  • Media strategy

In collaboration with other law enforcement agencies and academic institutions, the BAUs also conduct research into various crime areas. Additionally, the BAUs share the knowledge gained through operational experience and research with law enforcement agencies through a variety of training venues.

Interview Strategies

When allegations prove false, often no forensic evidence exists. Most testimony by eyewitnesses tends to offer exclusively post-offense details and include only information provided by the offender. As a result, the ability of investigators to gain admission or confession from the perpetrator can become crucial in resolving the case.

Officers face the challenge of determining which life problems have caused the offender to present a false report to law enforcement. Generally, the most effective interviews involve an empathetic approach toward the subject. Directly challenging offenders with inconsistencies in their account or the lack of hard evidence likely will make them shut down or stubbornly insist on the accuracy of their story. After establishing rapport, interviewers need to address the person�s life problems. However, empathy does not mean sympathetic. Authorities can express an understanding of difficulties that caused the situation without condoning the behavior. By addressing the offender�s underlying issues, interviewers eliminate the need to argue over the allegation�s contradictions or the lack of evidence and more likely will gain a confession.

Possible Clues

Several indicators can help investigators identify a false allegation case. While none of these signs by themselves indicate a false allegation case, investigators should strongly consider a two-prong investigation with the corroboration of two or more. The offender may:

  • continue to make inconsistent statements conflicting prior claims by the individual or information provided by witnesses;
  • offer descriptions or circumstances of the reported offense that do not seem plausible or realistic;
  • show deception on a polygraph or refuse to take one;
  • have a history of mental and emotional problems or false allegations;
  • make the allegation after a similar crime received publicity (suggesting modeling or a copycat motive in which the similarity to the publicized crime offers credibility); or
  • provide an allegation that lacks substantiating forensic, physical, or medical evidence and does not agree with laboratory findings.
  • Source of Assistance

The FBI�s NCAVC provides advice and assistance in the general areas of crimes against adults, counterterrorism and threat assessment, and crimes against children. Typical cases received for assessment at NCAVC include serial murder, kidnapping, serial sexual assault, stalking, threat assessment, domestic and international terrorism, and false allegation crimes. NCAVC staff members handle requests for assistance from both domestic and international law enforcement agencies.

NCAVC reviews specific crimes from behavioral, forensic, and investigative perspectives. This analytical process serves as a tool for client law enforcement agencies by providing them with an evaluation of the offense, as well as an understanding of the criminal motivations and behavioral characteristics of the offender. Staff members also conduct research in the area of violent crime from a law enforcement perspective to gain insight into criminal thought processes, motivations, and behaviors. NCAVC shares its findings with the law enforcement community through publications, training, and application to the investigative and operational functions of the center.

Personnel typically consults on cases, such as false allegation crimes, when requested by the investigating agency. NCAVC will assist by providing behavioral analysis and investigative and interview strategies. Only law enforcement agencies and prosecutor�s offices can receive services from NCAVC.


Although false allegations of adult crimes tend to be the exception, rather than the rule, these cases present serious concerns to law enforcement. Investigators find them difficult and frustrating. Officers risk being accused of not treating crime victims properly by prematurely labeling their allegations as false or by being unable to resolve the case. Further, a tremendous amount of department resources (which could be applied to real victims of real crimes), such as overtime, forensic budgets, and work hours, can be wasted on them.

Realizing how to identify false allegation crimes by using the two-prong investigation and developing the appropriate interview strategy based on the offender�s true motivations/life problems allows investigators to more easily and quickly resolve these cases. This will save significant department resources and put the community at ease.


Indicators of False Allegations

The following list of indicators of false allegations of rape was taken from the FBI's Behavior Manual on Recognizing False Allegations

  • Complaint is not timely and is made to friends, associates, or to a hospital or medical authorities in order to justify tests for pregnancy or venereal disease.
  • Victim is indifferent to apparent injuries.
  • Victim relates the incident either in a monotone or with excessive zeal and relish.
  • Victim states she cannot describe her assailant because she kept her eyes closed.
  • Victim alleges she was assaulted by more than one person.
  • Victim claims she offered vigorous resistance but was forcibly overcome.
  • Assailant was a total stranger or a person she cannot otherwise describe or identify (e.g. a friend of a friend but she cannot describe him).
  • Victim claims she also receives threatening notes or phone calls prior to or after the assault.
  • Rape allegation is narrow in construction and meets only the "minimal requirements" for rape.
  • Victim claims the rapist did not perform oral or anal sex.
  • Victim cannot recall exactly where the crime took place even though she should have been able to.
  • Crime scene does not support story (i.e., ground cover not disturbed; no footprints where there should be some; no signs of struggle when there should logically be present).
  • Damage to her clothing is inconsistent with any injuries she reports (bites, cuts, or scratches inconsistent with tears or cuts clothing or no damage to clothing when there should have been).
  • Victim presents letters allegedly from rapists in which death or rape threats are made.
  • Absence of confirming serological evidence.
  • Injuries are made either by fingernails or by a sharp instrument (usually not found at the scene).
  • Injuries are extensive but do not involve sensitive tissues (i.e., lips, nipples, genitals, etc).
  • Victim reports seemingly painful injuries with an air of indifference.
  • Victim's statement alleges wounds were incurred while she attempted to protect herself, yet the location and angle of injury in inconsistent with defense wounds.
  • Hesitation marks are present.
  • She is having difficulty in her personal relationships (e.g., with her husband, boyfriend, or parents).
  • Victim has a history of mental or emotional problems (particularly referencing self-injurious behavior, with hysterical or borderline features).
  • Victim has a previous record of having been assaulted or raped under similar circumstances.
  • Crime occurred after a similar crime received publicity. (Suggesting modeling, or "copycat" motive in which the similarity to the publicized crime offers credibility.)
  • Victim has an extensive record of medical care for dramatic illnesses or injuries.
  • Victim becomes outraged when asked to corroborate her victimization.
  • The presence of changed and/or embellished reports.*


*Another indicator of false allegations which is not mentioned in FBI's Behavior Manual on Recognizing False Allegations, but which is common in false reports, is the presence of changed and/or embellished reports over time. In such instances, subsequent reports rendered by the victim are more elaborate and more incriminating than previous reports. What may have begun as a bare-bones account which just meets the requirements for rape, if that, is built up over time to become more detailed, lengthy, and violent? This may be done out of necessity in order to bring the accused to trial.



Common Characteristics of Dangerous Women

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