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What are white-collar crimes?

| Nov 23, 2020 | White-collar crimes

Crimes that are characterized by concealment, deceit and violating a person or organization’s trust are commonly referred to as “white-collar crimes.” The FBI says these offenses are typically nonviolent and committed by individuals for financial gain.

Motivations include to obtain or avoid losing property, money or services, or to gain personal or business advantages wrongfully. White-collar crimes are investigated by state authorities, the FBI, the National Association of Securities Dealers (NASD), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and other federal entities.

Five most common white-collar crimes

According to the FBI, the term “white-collar crime” was coined in 1939 and is used for a wide range of fraudulent activity committed by businesses and government officials. The five most common charges are:

  • Corporate fraud: The FBI says most of these cases revolve around falsifying financial documents, insider trading and schemes to cover up fraud activities or obstruct regulatory agencies during investigations.
  • Embezzlement: People entrusted with handling money or property can face this charge when accused of using their position to siphon off or misappropriate funds. This can happen when an employee directs funds to their personal account or politicians use campaign proceeds for their own expenses.
  • Ponzi schemes: Named after Charles Ponzi, this is an investment scam promising high returns to investors for little or no risk. Ponzi reportedly made $250,000 per day in the 1920s through a mail coupon fraud scheme.
  • Extortion: This occurs when victims are blackmailed into paying money to keep someone from divulging sensitive information that can harm their reputation. This also happens when business owners are forced to pay “protection money” to keep their businesses from being targeted.
  • Bankruptcy fraud: Federal bankruptcy laws provide relief for people or businesses facing overwhelming debt. Creditors typically receive a small portion of the debtor’s assets. Filers can face this charge when they intentionally fail to include assets on their bankruptcy paperwork.

People can also face fraud charges over Medicare and Medicaid disbursements, securities, mortgages, bank transactions and many other areas.

Defending against financial crimes

People charged with white-collar crimes face potentially devastating criminal and civil consequences if convicted, including prison time and massive fines. These types of crimes are daunting. However, just because you are charged doesn’t mean you will be found guilty.

An experienced defense attorney, who understands these complex and challenging cases, can take quick action to protect your reputation and professional career by minimizing charges and penalties or having cases dismissed.