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White Collar Crime101

Updated on November 2, 2010

Many people would probably agree that white collar crime is just a generic term for nonviolent crimes. In all actuality, there isn’t a fixed definition for what constitutes a white collar crime. However, the violations associated with this term are extensive ranging from various acts of fraud, tax evasion, bribery, kickbacks, counterfeiting, public corruption, espionage, and money laundering. This is only a few of the very long lists on what constitutes white collar crime.

            The term originates from the dated assumption that businessmen and businesswomen wear white shirts with ties. Furthermore, it is the erroneous generalization that these types of crimes are committed only by executives and its originally thought that physical violent crimes are committed by blue collar workers. This however is far from the truth as it relates to crimes.  The term white collar crime was coined by Edwin Sutherland who was a criminology expert and also a sociologist who proposed the concept that people were more likely to commit crimes when and if they are surrounded by criminal behavior.  Furthermore, white collar crimes tend to overlap corporate crimes because the opportunities presented for these types of violations are available to white collar employees on a higher capacity.

White collar crime is not a victimless crime. One major issue is that a single cam can destroy an entire company and wipeout families. Furthermore, people who invest in these companies can lose millions of money.

Based on a study conducted by the National White Collar Crime Center, one in three American households are victims of white collar crimes and what’s even worse is that only about forty one percent actually report it. Eventually, only a mere twenty one percent make it into the hands of the law enforcement or consumer protection agency. This means that many of the white collar crimes that are reported, fail to reach the proper authorities. (Johnston 2002)

The real question behind this is why do members of society fail to report crimes that end up costing the nation hundreds of billions every year?  Statistics gathered by the crime center show that there is a disparity between how people believe they will react if they are ever victimized and how they do so when they actually find themselves in the hot seat. One speculation is that they not initially believe they have been victimized, furthermore; they are or may be unsure of which agency they should contact. One of the biggest reasons for not filing or reporting a crime is the simple belief that the perpetrators will never be caught. (Johnson 2002)

During the 1970’s and 1980’s, Congress passed several laws to combat white collar crime.   The Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act or RICO was established and originally associated with mafia related organized crime but soon applied to white collar crimes. Crimes such as embezzlement, fraud, and bribery fell into this act and made it easier to prosecute individuals for such crimes.  In the early 2000s, Congress passed the Sarbanes- Oxley Act  to help improve corporate governance which entailed the relationship and accountability between corporations and their shareholders. (McGrath)

Overall, white collar crimes come in many different forms. They include credit card, health care, insurance, and security fraud. Basically, society has come a long way from scratching off paper and simple forgery. Society itself has given birth to the information age and with the growing reliance on telecommunication such as the internet and voice control technological advances, its making it easier and easier to commit crimes. Furthermore, the temptation seems to be on the rise.


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