Facebook Twitter Google Plus Linkedin


White collar crime refers to non-violent crimes committed through deceptive practices, for the purpose of financial gain. Typically, white collar crimes are committed by business people who are able to access large amounts of money, though the term is sometimes applied to others who pilfer monies in other circumstances. White collar crimes are non-violent, and are committed by a broad range of activities, such as insider trading. To explore this concept, consider the following white collar crime definition.

What is a White Collar Crime

White collar crimes are financially motivated crimes committed by individuals, businesses, and government entities. The actual term “white collar crime” was coined by Edwin Sutherland, Professor of Sociology, 29th President American Sociological Society. Sutherland described such crimes as “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.”

White collar crimes cover a wide range of activities, but generally, the crimes are committed by people who are involved in otherwise lawful businesses. The perpetrators often hold respectable positions in their communities or businesses, until their illegal activities discovered. The laws concerning white collar crimes vary, depending on the exact nature of the crimes committed, though many fall under federal authority.

Common Types of White Collar Crime

The term white collar crime covers a wide array of crimes, but they all involve crimes committed through deceit for the purpose of gaining money or other assets. The most common types of white collar crime include fraud, insider trading, and bribery. White collar crimes can often be difficult to prosecute, as the perpetrators take sophisticated steps to ensure their illegal activities are difficult to detect. The most common types of white collar crime are explained below.


Fraud is committed by misrepresenting facts in order to gain something in return. The crime of fraud requires four elements:

  • The perpetrator made a statement of fact that he knew to be false
  • The perpetrator intentionally made the false statement
  • The victim believed the statement to be true, relied on the statement, and lost something of value, based on his belief

Example of Fraud

Joseph responded to an ad about an apartment for rent. He met with the supposed landlord, toured the apartment, and agreed to rent the apartment by signing a lease. Joseph paid the security deposit and first month’s rent up front. The next week, Joseph went to the apartment to pick up the key, and learned that someone else actually occupied the residence.

After doing some investigation, Joseph learned that the apartment was not for rent at all, but that the man he met with and gave the money to was not the property owner. In this example of white collar crime, the man who posed as the owner to swindle money out of a prospective tenant has committed fraud.

Insider Trading

Insider trading is often considered a type of fraud, though many people are surprised to learn that not all insider trading is illegal. Insider trading is against the law if a securities transaction, which is the sale or purchase of stocks, is engaged in by a person, or small group of people, inside the company, who have special knowledge not available to others.


Bribery is committed when a person uses something of value to tempt or influence someone to act in a specific way, to make certain decisions, or to express certain opinions. This is most commonly seen in one person offering to pay money to another person, who is in a position of authority, for the purpose of persuading him to do something, or to refrain from doing something. Both offering bribes, and accepting bribes, are considered illegal.