Where Do 'White-Collar Crimes' Get Their Name?


You’ve probably heard of a white-collar crime before. Maybe you heard about a few major ones in the news. Maybe you know that they aren’t violent and often involve fraud in one way or another. White-collar crimes get their name from the image of an office worker or businessperson manipulating someone else or that person’s money for their own personal financial gain.

Because white-collar crimes don’t inherently involve elements like violence or drugs, a lot of people get the impression that they’re not as severely punished as crimes that do. The reality is that white-collar crimes can be punished just as severely or even more so than so-called “blue-collar” crimes.

While some may be misdemeanors depending upon the severity of the accused offense and whether a state or the federal government has jurisdiction. In the latter case, penalties for white-collar crimes can range anywhere from several years to several decades in prison.

Examples of White-Collar Crimes

The following are just a few examples of common white-collar crimes:

  • Tax evasion: Knowingly underreporting or failing to report earned income on a federal tax return.
  • Embezzlement: Misappropriation of someone else’s assets for one’s personal use.
  • Money laundering: Making it appear as if money generated from a criminal activity came from a legitimate source.
  • Securities fraud: Any scheme that defrauds investors.
  • Pyramid scheme: Illegal investment scam with a hierarchical setup. Members pay higher-ups with money acquired from new members.
  • Ponzi Scheme: A fraudulent investment scam that promises high rates of return with little or no risk to investors.
  • Mail Fraud: Using the U.S. Postal Service or another courier service to commit fraud.
  • Wire Fraud: Using telecommunications including telephones and/or the Internet to defraud victims.

There’s also bank fraud, mortgage fraud, healthcare fraud, bribery, identity theft, forgery, racketeering, and so on. The number of white-collar crimes out there is great, which makes it likely that doing something underhanded for one’s personal gain would count as one.

Can Anyone Be Charged with a White-Collar Crime?

The nature of white-collar crimes – as well as news and entertainment about them – often give the impression that only the wealthy commit them. While it may be true that criminal activity committed by those of means is more likely to include white-collar crime, they are by no means the only people who are charged and convicted of it.

Anyone can commit and be convicted of a white-collar crime.

For example, “skimming some off the top” of a sale can be a prosecutable offense because you are trusted with someone else’s assets but using them for your own financial benefit. A more common example is failing to report tips, which in rare cases could be treated as tax evasion by the IRS if the tax filer knowingly and willingly failed to report their tips.

Suffice it to say, there are many ways in which a person of any level of wealth can commit a white-collar crime.

When Do I Need a Lawyer?

If you believe you are under investigation for a white-collar crime or have already been arrested and/or charged with one, you need legal assistance immediately. Having an attorney by your side as soon as possible can help you ensure your rights are protected throughout this difficult process.

Hester Law Group can provide the assistance you need whenever you need it, including any investigations that occur before formal charges have been raised. You can expect us to honestly assess your situation and help you understand what the best possible outcome may be and what it would take to get there.

We provide each client with a personalized legal strategy that takes the unique details of their case into account. With a defense built from this perspective, we may be able to help you achieve the best possible outcome for your situation.

Learn more by scheduling a consultation with Hester Law Group. Contact us online or call (253) 300-3034 to arrange yours today!