Seven Facts About White Collar Crime
White-collar crime is one of the most common forms of crime in America. It occurs when an individual uses their position of trust to take advantage of others for personal gain. This form of crime has increased over the years, yet not much has been done to address it.
Despite this alarming rate of increase, it is still not enough to bring alarm since the damage is only experienced by a few people. This crime can be attributed to various factors such as greed and complicated accounting practices to avoid detection. While white-collar crime differs from traditional crime, I have compiled some research of interesting facts that you may not know about white-collar crime in the United States.
What is White-Collar Crime?
White-collar crime is a term used to describe nonviolent offenses committed by business and government professionals such as embezzlement, fraud, bribery, and computer crimes.
White-collar crimes are nonviolent offenses committed against victims by business and government professionals. These types of crimes differ from violent crimes because the victims typically do not fear for their lives or feel physical harm as a result of the crime.
Instead, white-collar criminals take advantage of their positions in society to commit fraud, bribery, and computer crimes against victims in their professional lives.
White-collar crime can be challenging to identify because it is typically hidden from the public eye. White-collar criminals are often employed in professions that have considerable discretionary power – such as doctors, lawyers, politicians, or business owners – and therefore have the power to keep their illegal actions secret.
The term white-collar crime was coined in 1939 by the American criminologist Edwin Sutherland, who went on to describe it as:“… a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.”
Sutherland believed that people with higher levels of education and social status were more likely to engage in white-collar crime. This was because they had the intelligence, power, and financial resources needed to commit these types of crimes without being caught.
Sutherland’s definition has since evolved so that it now generally refers to nonviolent crimes committed by business and government professionals in their professional lives to gain financially or to maintain or increase their social status.
Types of White-Collar Crimes
As the following examples of white-collar crime show that this type of behavior is not limited to high-level professionals. It can be committed by anyone in a position of trust who uses his or her power for personal gain rather than for the benefit of society. The following are a few examples of white-collar crimes:
- Embezzlement is the illegal transfer or misappropriation of money or property that has been entrusted to the perpetrator. For example, an embezzler could be employed as an accountant for a company and use their position to pay themselves large bonuses for which they are not entitled.
- Fraud is the act of deceiving another person to get them to give something valuable to the perpetrator. For example, a college student could obtain an unlicensed credit card and use it to purchase expensive items.
- Bribery is a form of corruption in which individuals or groups provide money, goods, or other forms of recompense to public officials in exchange for favors. For example, a politician could accept a bribe from a business owner to get their support for new legislation that would benefit the briber’s business.
- Computer crimes are illegal actions that are committed with the use of a computer. These actions might include identity theft, cyberstalking, or illegally accessing data on another person’s computer without their knowledge. For example, an IT professional could decide to hack into clients’ systems to take credit for fixing issues that have already been fixed by his coworkers.
Note that not all of these examples involve financial gain. A person’s motivation can range from a simple desire to break the law, to more complicated reasons such as helping a loved one or avoiding personal embarrassment.
Interesting White-Collar Crime Facts
1. The first person ever to be executed for a white-collar crime was James Wilson. He was hanged in New York City on the 6th of August 1789 for committing bankruptcy fraud.
2. The term white-collar crime came to use during the days when people who were deemed respectable in society wore white shirts to their place of work or business. This is because it seemed that they had not committed any crimes. In addition, these people were also in positions of power and authority.
3. In a study conducted by the United States Sentencing Commission, it was revealed that between 1993 and 2001, white-collar crime had increased by over 40%.
4. The convicted felon who received the most expensive prison bill was Bernard Ebbers. He was imprisoned at Oakdale Prison in Louisiana. His bill showed that he has been charged $860,914 per year. He was convicted on April 15, 2005, for committing securities fraud and other related charges.
5. The individuals who commit white-collar crimes are usually given probation or a fine rather than imprisonment. However, the damage that is caused by these people affects not only a few individuals but also entire communities and countries where they have operated at their highest capacity.
6. A 2003 study showed that there had been an increase of 8% in white-collar cases from 1991 to 2001. Furthermore, it also revealed that the sentences given were longer for those who committed financial crimes as compared to violent crimes.
7. A white-collar crime is a nonviolent crime. It involves unlawful acts of deceit and breach of trust by people who are deemed respectable, corrupt, and fraudulent. This can include embezzlement, counterfeiting, and bribery among others.
There is very little that can be done to prevent white-collar crime. However, there are several ways in which this can be curbed. These include the use of forensic accountants who can detect frauds among other things.
White-Collar Crime vs. Traditional Crime
- White-collar criminals are often financially stable and have professional jobs. This gives them the power to commit their crimes without being noticed. Victims of white-collar crime are typically members of the public who are not in a position to retaliate. This is because they are unlikely to know who committed the crime against them or how it was done. As a result, white-collar criminals are often able to avoid being punished for their crimes.
- White-collar crimes are typically nonviolent and financially motivated compared to violent crimes which are usually emotionally driven. White-collar crime is far more common than violent crime. It is estimated that an average of $1 million worth of goods or services is stolen every three seconds in the United States alone.
- White-collar crimes are not confined by social status, age, or sex. People from all walks of life can be white-collar criminals regardless of their profession, income, or education level. This is especially true for people who commit fraud. They often do so without physically harming anyone to steal money, goods, or services.
- White-collar crime can be committed by individuals or groups of people. For example, a group of friends could work together to defraud their employer out of company property. Alternatively, an individual might decide to sell fake forms of identification online to make a profit.
Consequences of White-Collar Crime
Depending on the severity, white-collar crime can result in fines, court-mandated community service, and/or jail time.
For example, the people who were involved in defrauding their employer out of company property could be required to repay what they stole and perform 250 hours of community service as punishment for their crime.
In severe cases, white-collar criminals can face up to 20 years in prison for their crimes. For example, a person who sells stolen identities online could be imprisoned for 20 years if their actions result in harm to the victims.
It is important to note that white-collar criminals are not always caught and arrested because they can be extremely difficult to track down.
In addition, it is often very challenging to prove that a crime has been committed. This is especially true when the criminal knows how to keep their actions hidden from law enforcement.
No Standard Punishment for White Collar Crimes
There is no standard punishment for white-collar crimes. As a result, punishments can differ widely between states and even between individual cases. In addition, the severity of a person’s sentence often depends on whether or not they face federal charges.
Individuals who commit them are often required to pay a fine. They may also perform community service as part of their sentence. Many times, they are ordered to repay the money or goods that were stolen as well as any damages incurred by their actions.
These consequences serve as a deterrent for other would-be white-collar criminals by demonstrating the repercussions of committing such crimes. In severe cases, individuals who commit white-collar crimes can face up to 20 years in prison and fines as high as $500,000.
White-collar crime is not always reported because it is difficult to identify and investigate. For example, white-collar criminals are often able to avoid being caught. They set up complicated schemes that are difficult for law enforcement to understand.
Even when white-collar crimes are reported, it may be very challenging for victims to prove the crime was committed by a particular person or group of people. This is because they use impersonal methods such as online marketplaces or throwaway email addresses.
The Evolution of White Collar Crime
Various white-collar crimes involve acts of deceit and breach of trust by people who are deemed respectable by society. This has led to their increased rate over time despite the proactive measures used to curb them.