White collar crime covers a wide range of specific crimes. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the common denominator inherent in all white collar crimes is that of fraud.

Some of the most common white collar crimes include the following:

  • Money laundering
  • Identity theft
  • Securities and/or commodities fraud
  • RICO violations
  • Intellectual property infringement
  • Corporate, financial institution and/or mortgage fraud

Fraud methods

While only a perpetrator’s imagination can limit the number of ways in which (s)he can commit fraud, the most common ways include the following:

  • Illegal business practices
  • Deceit
  • Concealment
  • Violation of trust
  • Deception

White collar crime history

Interestingly, the term “white collar crime” came into existence only about 80 years ago, even though the practice has been going on for centuries. In 1939, a sociologist by the name of Edwin Sutherland came up with the term. Per his definition, white collar crimes consist of those “committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of their occupation.”

Keep in mind that most high-level businessmen of that era wore business suits to work each day that included an obligatory white shirt. Hence the idea of corporate criminals wearing white collars. The term stuck even though corporate dress codes have long since relaxed. Today’s white collar criminal may wear jeans to work, but (s)he still commits fraud of some type.

Generally, personal financial gain serves as the motive for a white collar criminal. Sometimes, however, (s)he seeks an enhanced business reputation so as to attract even more victims. (S)he likewise can have the financial gain of his or her relatives or friends as motive.