White collar crime in the 1930s used to mean crime committed by a person of respectability and high status in the course of his occupation. However, today white-collar crimes are described more broadly as any criminal activity for financial advantage that occurs in the course of business. A person no longer needs to be of high social status to commit a white-collar crime. White-collar crimes also include nonviolent crimes committed by corporations or individuals.
Some white-collar crimes prevalent today include:
- Embezzlement, which is when someone in a position of trust with money takes it for personal use.
- Healthcare fraud, which relates to overbilling or other scams that are performed by doctors, ambulance services, pharmacies, and extended-care facilities.
- Insurance fraud, which occurs when insurance companies charge higher rates than allowed by state regulators.
- Mail fraud, which involves the use of the postal service to mail materials that help create fraud.
White-collar crime has even evolved with the invention of the Internet. Hackers use computers and the Internet to gain unauthorized access to the financial records and computer files of corporations as well as individuals. This leads to both identity theft and credit-card fraud, which includes purchasing goods online with someone else’s credit card information. There are also computer viruses and worms that can destroy data on a computer or render a computer useless.
In the end, businesses need to keep a close eye on their financial records, and improve the hiring and training process in order to employ people with more ethical values and moral virtues. This will help instill more strict overall law-abiding business policies, to help companies avoid the ever-increasing opportunities for corruption in the business world.
George Ackerman is an adjunct faculty for the Online department of Stevens-Henager College.