The Real Crime Being Committed Behind White Collar Crimes


The acts of white collar crimes have been an issue for many decades. Some people believe that lack of attention given to these crimes push more and more people to commit white collar crimes. The socio-economic background of an individual does not necessarily prove that he does not have the capability to commit a crime. Greed and economic difficulty are what usually push individuals to commit white collar crimes.

The Real Crime Being Committed Behind White Collar Crimes

The term “white-collar crime” was coined by sociology Professor Edwin H. Sutherland. December 27, 1939 during his speech to the American Sociological Association Prof. Sutherland first stated the phrase “white-collared criminal”. In 1949, he defined white-collar crime as:

Approximately as a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.

The studies of Prof. Sutherland imposed that the view of most criminologists were focused on the economic and social factors of crime, examples like level of wealth and background of family. According to Sutherland a crime can be committed by anyone. It does not matter if he is rich or poor, old or young. No one is excluded from one day committing a crime. Most crimes according to Sutherland involve large organizations and powerful people. Most criminologists started to take notice of white collar crimes during the mid-1970’s. It was during these years that more cases of white-collar crimes started to bring about attention amongst prosecutors and the public, therefore requiring new laws for these crimes. The changes on the definition of Sutherland involved not only those with “white-collar” jobs but those with divergent backgrounds committing the crimes as those with white-collar jobs thus making the term “white collar crime” a misnomer.  Since it is widely used it now provides a moniker from distinguishing the difference from street crimes.

Records of the losses of the United States to white collar crimes have not been properly recorded therefore making it a problem for research and policy evaluations. According to the FBI, the country is estimated to lose $300 billion yearly.

One reason why many citizens are not outraged by these devious acts is the lack of proper media coverage. Since most white-collar crimes are made up of complex, and relatively technical actions this may take up too much time for the media to report and even more time for the viewers to comprehend. One other reason would be the legal actions that are given to the convicted. The evidence of the crimes is not as clear-cut as street crime, penalties are said to be light and the damage done would be forgotten in mere time.

An adoption fraud case was reported in Florida in 2001. A woman would contact different victims (those who were interested in adopting) via an internet site. Claiming she knew women who are ready to give birth but are not ready to become mothers, she then asked the victims for small administrative fees or for money that would be used upon the birth of the baby. Once the victims realized that they were being fooled they would have spent hundreds or thousands of dollars. The victims were more concerned with their crushed hopes of having a baby rather than the money that was taken from them.  This example shows that the victims were too traumatized by the situation that the money was not the issue anymore, except their dreams that were now shattered. The outrage felt by the victims lead them to humiliation rather than their desire to file charges.

Another reason why there is a lack of outrage would be the control of most of these situations. For example white collar crimes involve those who can afford the best Lawyers who can give them legal advice. Favorable laws, some laws are not broken but can be bended for the white collared criminal. When crimes are usually done most people perceive that the police are usually involved, but since in white collar crimes police are rarely seen not many people view these as harsh as street crimes. Lastly, in most cases it is very difficult to pinpoint who is the criminal. For example the carelessness of waste by company may lead to the pollution of the environment but after a few months of settling the case, the company may go off with only a fine and no one goes to jail.


Strader, J. K. (2002). Understanding White Collar Crime. United States