White collar crimes are quite different from typical criminal acts in a variety of ways. According to the FBI, the main distinguishing factor of a white collar crime is that it is based on fraud.
White collar crimes can be felonies or misdemeanors, but they are often treated differently in court than other types of crimes. White collar crimes include bankruptcy fraud, insider trading, mortgage fraud, money laundering and embezzlement. Some common differentiators include the following:
The crimes are typically nonviolent
Most often, crimes that fall under this umbrella are nonviolent. They may include intimidation of some kind, but they rarely involve physical harm or injury.
Money is usually the motivation
One main factor that distinguishes an illegal act as a white collar crime is that it involves monetary theft. Specifically, these crimes typically include using some type of scheme to steal money from unsuspecting victims.
White collar crimes differ from robbery or theft because the illegal act is usually covered up in a way that makes the transfer of funds seem legitimate. In other words, victims may not know that someone is stealing money from them until after it happens.
There’s often a business angle
White collar crimes commonly occur within a business setting. The people who commit these crimes or face accusations are usually business professionals. They often have no previous criminal record, and in most instances, they are people nobody would ordinarily suspect of being involved in criminal activity.
The crime can be difficult to detect
Because white collar crimes are typically hidden in plain sight, they can be difficult to uncover. For example, if you work in a company that’s committing insider trading, it will be difficult for authorities to discover this crime without someone within your company tipping them off. Due to the difficulty in discovering these crimes, some individuals who have committed a white collar crime may never face prosecution.