What are white collar crimes and what leads someone to commit one?

Law enforcement or prosecutors often refer to non-violent, financial offenses as “white collar” crimes. Fraud, embezzlement, insider trading, money laundering and cybercrimes are just some of the many offenses classified this way.

Data recently published by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shows that there are at least $500 billion lost due to white collar crimes annually. This number is ten times how much is lost in personal property crimes each year, making this kind of criminal activity one of the most prolific. 

What motivates someone to commit a white collar crime?

Many factors may motivate someone to take part in a white collar crime. Some perceive their actions to be harmless or victimless. Someone may also do so because they disagree with the laws or assume that their company is so large that they won’t notice the loss. 

An employer that isn’t overly concerned with ethics might turn a blind eye to insider trading. Workers who feel that their company offers them an inferior incentive package to what they deserve may develop an illicit strategy to embezzle money from them. A medical provider may bill for the wrong, more expensive procedures, thus engaging in insurance fraud. These are just a few examples of actions that could end up with a defendant facing criminal charges. 

How serious are white collar charges?

One of the worst mistakes that individuals make is assuming that no one will discover their impropriety. Most companies have checks and balances in place to track waste and loss in instances just like this. 

Another misconception is that the worst thing that can happen if someone catches them is that they’ll lose their job or have to pay a fine. That’s not the worst outcome that a convicted defendant may face, by far. Prosecutors often request (and judges frequently impose) serious penalties, including restitution and prison time.

If you’ve been charged with financial crimes, an attorney will want to know more about the circumstances surrounding your case before helping you understand all of your options.