One element of white-collar crime is that violence is not used against the victims. A second element of white-collar crime is that white-collar criminals are often business people who seem very respectable until they are caught. A third element of white-collar crime is that it can affect millions of people.

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White Collar Crime Definition

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One federal criminal statute that government agencies use to convict white-collar criminals is the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO is used for white-collar criminal offenses because it allows top people in business to be charged with crimes they ordered, but did not personally commit. Felony tax evasion (Title 26) is another federal criminal statute used to convict white-collar criminals because white-collar crime is committed in order to collect money by fraudulent means. Such money is not reported and taxes are not paid on it, so felony tax evasion gives the government an avenue to pursue in bringing white-collar criminals to justice.

The financial cost of white-collar crime to society is the effect it has on the economy. The economy is not going to grow very fast when people hoard their money for fear of white-collar criminals stealing it. The physical cost of white-collar crime occurs when people who have lost their money are not able to pay their bills and suffer physical hardship. This causes a social cost. People who have lost everything to white-collar criminals will need public assistance. A retiree who was perfectly capable of taking care of themselves with the income from their pension might have to go on welfare after a white-collar criminal empties their pension fund. Today “white collar criminals are treated equivalently to violent criminals because there is recognition the harm they inflict on society and victims is as worthy of attention as street crime” (Pleyte, 2003). These social costs result in the greatest loss to society, because society must now pick up the cost of living for so many victims, in addition to the loss of trust in financial institutions.

  • Pleyte, M. (2003, December 1). White Collar Crime in The Twenty-First Century. Retrieved July 30, 2017, from