It’s difficult to find someone who hasn’t heard the term “white collar crime.” However,
explaining these types of offenses and what they mean is a whole different ballgame.
Misconceptions about white collar crimes run rampant, probably because the phrase covers such
a wide array of criminal acts. Still, it’s important to understand not only what white collar crimes
are and how they are punished – but also how your conceptions about them that are false.
Read on to find the truth behind some of the biggest white collar crime myths.
White Collar Crime: What Is It?
The term white collar crime has been around since the 1930s. It’s had a lot of time to become a
part of the common vernacular and to create ideas in popular culture about what it is.
For a crime to be considered “white collar,” it usually involves fraudulent or financial activity
that is non-violent in nature. Typically, the person who commits the offense is in a position of
trust or power, but this isn’t true in every instance of white collar crime.
At the heart of every white collar crime is some violation of trust, some sort of concealment, and
deceit. People commit these crimes for financial gain or to avoid losing services, property, or
money – or to secure some kind of business or personal advantage. These crimes are by no
means victimless, as many people are often left devastated in their wake.
The most common white collar crimes include:
● Corporate Fraud
● Money Laundering
● Commodities and Securities Fraud
● Ponzi Schemes
● Pyramid Schemes
● Bankruptcy Fraud
● Mortgage Fraud
● Medicaid and Medicare Fraud
● Credit Card Fraud
Myths Surrounding White Collar Crime
It seems like white collar crime is reported in the news quite frequently. Busted Ponzi schemes
or fraud in the corporate world make the news when they happen, usually because the scope of
the crime is large.
This creates a lot of misunderstanding and misinformation about white collar crimes and how
they are handled by prosecutors. Some of the most prevalent white collar crime myths include:
Rich and Powerful People Are Not Prosecuted
Often, powerful people also seem to be very wealthy, with high-powered lawyers at their
disposal along with endless resources to keep charges from finding them. But the truth is that not
even the powerful or the very wealthy are above the law. Eventually, they do get prosecuted for
Prosecutors regularly pursue charges against people with very high profiles in society, and
reputation doesn’t appear to protect them. In fact, the news of their crimes often goes viral and
exposes even more illegal acts in the process.
White Collar Criminals Avoid Jail
Another misconception about white collar criminals is that they don’t do jail time – which is
demonstrably false. Those convicted of serious white collar crimes that involve a lot of money or
something else with a lot of value often go to prison for years.
The penalties for white collar crimes depend on the underlying crime and the amount of money
involved. In Texas, they can serve as little as two years in prison for theft of up to $20,000 or as
much as 99 years for theft of over $200,000. Even the misdemeanor white collar crimes can send
someone to jail for a year for stealing $1,500.
Normal People Are Not White Collar Criminals
The fact of the matter is that anyone can be a criminal. But this myth persists likely because of
the financial issues involved in white collar crimes. Many assume that only wealthy people
commit them – or people with some sort of power or influence. Don’t believe this myth, because
there have been many instances of people who work at schools and even churches who embezzle
money and get caught – and they seem like “normal” folks.
White Collar Crimes Doesn’t Happen Often
It’s unfortunate that this one is a myth. The truth is that white collar crime happens in various
ways all the time. Even though you may hear about big cases in the news only every few years,
the people in law enforcement working behind the scenes see white collar crime on a nearly daily
basis. Many prosecutions will never be heard about by the public, but they do happen frequently.
White Collar Criminals Are Treated Differently
You may have heard rumors about white collar criminals getting lenient sentences for their
crimes, but this is not the case at all. While violent criminals may be subject to harsher penalties
for their crimes, white collar crimes that involve a lot of stolen money and property can get
sentences just as harsh as any other.