When many people think about crime, they imagine robberies, homicide, assault, and other acts that typically involve some type of violence and a well-defined victim. But white collar crime, which involves acts that are usually financially motivated but are not violent, cost individuals, businesses, investors, and the government billions of dollars each year. While white collar crime does not physically harm anyone, the financial implications can be serious and far reaching.
It is difficult to characterize the “typical” white collar criminal; the people who commit these types of crime range from cunning individuals looking to make large amounts of money through illegal means or the black market, to high ranking and trusted employees of large corporations or the government. The term white collar crime covers a wide variety of different illegal acts, including:
The rise of the Internet has changed society over the past two decades, but it has also created an outlet for rampant white collar crime in the form of computer fraud. Tech-savvy criminals and hackers are continually developing new ways to steal sensitive information, such as credit cards numbers, bank account information, and personal information. In some instances specific websites or business servers are attacked, but criminals also have the ability to hack into individual Wi-Fi connections to access personal computer data.
Healthcare expenses are already a concern for many people, and rampant healthcare fraud is a contributing factor to rising costs to consumers. This type of fraud is unfortunately found in all areas of healthcare, from doctors’ offices and hospitals, to home healthcare agencies, nursing homes, laboratories, and ambulance companies. Healthcare fraud involves billing private and government run health insurance companies for services not performed or unnecessary equipment or tests.
Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud is a problem that affects millions of Americans and can take a long time for the victim to fix. When an opportunistic criminal gets his or her hands on sensitive personal information, it is not difficult for fraudulent credit cards accounts to be opened without a person knowing that his or her identity has been stolen. Credit card fraud can destroy a person’s credit, making it very difficult to obtain a mortgage or other lines of credit.
Embezzlement is an issue faced by all types of companies, from small businesses to international corporations. This type of white collar crime occurs when a trusted employee steals money or goods from the company. This can involve blatant theft or an elaborate scheme that disguises the embezzlement by falsifying financial records.
American citizens and companies are required to pay taxes on their income, but some people and corporations choose to falsify tax returns or not file a tax return at all. Tax evasion is a federal crime with serious consequences when a person or company is caught.
Trading stocks or other securities is a regulated activity in the United States. When a person has confidential information about a future event that is unknown to the general public, it is illegal for that information to be used or shared for trading purposes.
Individuals or companies earning large amounts of money through illegal means often turn to money laundering to make “dirty” money appear to have come from legal, legitimate activities. This often involves transferring illegal money to financial organizations, established legal companies, or shell corporations; the illegal money is then added to financial records to “launder” it and make it “clean” money.
Corrupt government employees or officials may commit government fraud by manipulating and misappropriating funds for public housing programs, welfare programs, agricultural programs, educational programs. Another form of government fraud involves taking bribes for defense contracts, or allowing collusion among contractors that provide defense products or services. This type of fraud squanders away valuable tax dollars that could be spent for the benefit of the citizens of the country.
White collar crime may not involve guns, violence, or physical harm, but these types of crime cost individuals, companies, and the government billions of dollars each and every year. This type of crime is not tolerated and white collar criminals, both individuals and corporations face stiff consequences when they are caught. Penalties can include large fines, forfeiture of assets, restitution, home detention, and imprisonment.