Although offenses similar to what is referred to as white-collar crime have been around for centuries, it is likely that white-collar crime will become even more prevalent in the future than it is now or was in the past. Social and technological changes have made white-collar crime opportunities more available to a broader range of people than ever before.
White-collar crime is a generic term that refers to a broad range of illegal acts committed by seemingly respectable people in business settings as part of their occupational roles. There are many different types of white-collar crime, ranging from antitrust offenses to environmental violations to health care frauds and beyond. These types of crime are important because they impose enormous financial, physical, and social harms on individuals, communities, and society in general. Because of their special characteristics and the techniques by which they are committed, they pose significant problems for law enforcement and regulatory agencies interested in controlling them. Evidence suggests that white-collar crime is pervasive, widespread, and growing.
This research paper begins with a brief discussion of the history of the concept of white-collar crime in the discipline of criminology. The nature and extent of the harms imposed by white-collar crime are then detailed. Next, the characteristics and techniques of white-collar offending are described, and the problems that these features create for societal efforts to reduce white-collar crime are outlined. This section is followed by a summary of some of the major forms of white-collar crime. Finally, the research paper concludes by identifying recent social and economic developments that are likely to ensure that white-collar crime will maintain its status as a major social problem well into the future.