Though crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, and forgery have been on the books for centuries, the trend for most of the past century has been to group such offenses under the general term “white-collar crime.” Initially, the distinction was largely intended to separate nonviolent crimes from those committed through the threat or use of force. With the advent of computers and the internet, though, the range of white-collar crimes has increased substantially.
Generally speaking, a white-collar crime is one that involves no violence or threat of violence toward another person, typically perpetrated primarily or exclusively for financial gain. Often, the person committing the crime has the opportunity to do so because they occupy a position of authority or trust within an organization. Most types of white-collar crimes can be committed entirely privately, using external tools, such as computers, falsified financial records, and other documents to redirect or misappropriate funds or property.
Examples of white-collar crimes include:
Many different types of misrepresentation can be the basis for criminal fraud:
A relatively recent development in laws governing white-collar crime, identity theft occurs when a person intentionally and wrongfully either takes and uses the personal information of another for financial gain or represents themselves to be that person for financial gain. Often, it involves information wrongfully gathered online, but it can also include the theft of mail or other types of subterfuge.
For additional information, see our page on Identity Theft and Identity Protection Laws.
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