“White Collar Crime” Is a Broad Category

The definitions of crimes are not always static; many change as offenses evolve. According to the FBI, white collar crime is a general term used to describe offenses involving fraud that are perpetrated by professionals in the business and government fields. Believed to have been created in 1939, this term has grown broader over the years, and now many types of activity committed by Pennsylvania residents may fall under this category.

Some crimes continue to fit the classic definition of white collar fraud. For example, the FBI lists hedge fund fraud as one of its major threats and programs. This type of crime is committed by financial managers who are responsible for handling the assets of high-wealth investors. The federal agency also investigates white collar crimes associated with corporate fraud, which can involve cases of self-dealing corporate executives and illegal accounting schemes.

Over the years, white collar crimes have also come to include many other types of fraud. According to the FBI, common fraud scams include:

  • Investment scams – can involve false letters of credit or schemes in which investors are promised opportunities for substantial interest rates.
  • Telemarketing schemes – involve requests for monetary transfers or information disclosure.
  • Nigerian letters – involves the offer to share in money being transferred illegally from Nigeria; personal identifying information is often requested.
  • Identity theft – perpetrators use another person’s identity to perform criminal acts.
  • Advance fee schemes – victims pay money under the false impression that they will receive something of value later.

The penalties for conviction of any of the above white collar crimes can be severe. For example, under the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act (available online through the U.S. Government Printing Office), the federal penalty for aggravated identity theft will add two years imprisonment for general offenses, and five years imprisonment for terrorism offenses.