What Are White Collar Crimes?

Since the release of the USA Network television series White Collar, nearly everyone has heard the phrase "white collar crimes." However, not everybody knows what white collar crimes are. The term was first coined in 1939 by Edwin Sutherland, who referred to it as "a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation." There are many different types of white collar crimes that fall under this term. In order to better understand the definition, it helps to take a closer look at some of the different types of white collar crimes.

Insider Trading

Not many people knew what this was before the Martha Stewart scandal. This basically refers to finding out information about stocks of publicly held corporations through the people you know and selling or buying accordingly. It is illegal because it is not fair to everyone else and the information is usually obtained in an underhanded and unethical way.


This happens often among the elite and rich. Someone finds something out about someone and threatens to release the information to the public unless they get something in return, usually money.


This occurs when someone is in charge of money for a company or organization and finds a way to funnel the money out of the company for their own personal use.

Identity Theft

Almost everyone fears this crime. It can happen to anyone and can even ruin a person's life. This happens when your information is stolen and then the perpetrator uses your information for monetary gain. Usually it's for gaining access to your bank accounts or to open up credit cards in your name. You're considered lucky if only your credit is ruined.


Counterfeiting is done in many different ways. Most people think of money being counterfeited, but that is only the tip of the iceberg. Art, jewelry, clothing, documents, and more can be counterfeited for financial gain.

Computer Fraud

This type of fraud has exploded lately with hacking occurring in health insurance companies, government databases, banks, and more. Almost every type of company has been affected by this. Sometimes it is for information for financial gain, but sometimes it's to cause embarrassment, such as in the recent hacking of Ashley Madison.

White collar crime affects a lot of people, usually hard-working people struggling to get by in life. It's easy for the perpetrator to brush aside any guilt because they don't see the people that they hurt. It's not the same as stealing a purse or a car. However, it costs massive amounts of money, destroys lives, and ruins companies every day. For more information about this type of crime, contact a criminal lawyer near you.