What Are the Three Most Common White Collar Crimes?

What is white collar crime? 

According to the FBI’s own definition, white collar crime is a term that originated in the late 1930s in reference to the category of crimes that are usually financial in nature — either in an effort to scam, steal money or property, or to avoid paying or losing it  —  as perpetrated by professionals in the business or government sectors. The motivating force? Money. Power. Leverage. Either personal or professional in nature. 

These are not violent crimes, but they are also not victimless crimes. White collar crimes can result in financial ruin for businesses, individuals, and families alike. Some white collar crimes that the FBI focuses on include various types of fraud (bank, mortgage, securities and commodities, insurance, etc.), money laundering, election law, and many more.

The FBI partners with a wide swath of agencies like the IRS, the SEC, the Treasury Department, and others in order to focus on the complexities these crimes can contain. Most often white collar crimes are federal offenses, but there are misdemeanors associated with white collar crime, as well. 

But what about the breadth of these crimes? What are some of the most-common white collar crimes committed in the United States today? And, should you be accused of committing one, what are the steps you should take in protecting your constitutional rights from being violated?

The most common white collar crimes

Corporate Fraud

Also referred to as “business fraud,” corporate fraud entails crimes that are committed by organizations or individuals or groups within organizations in order for financial gain or protection. These crimes rely upon appearances of legitimacy, but use deceit, fraudulent practices, and scams in order to be perpetrated under the noses of investors, customers, and even colleagues or other business associates. 

Corporate or business fraud is really a broad term that describes a category of crimes, including:

  • Non-payment: This describes a fraudulent act where services are rendered or goods have been delivered or shipped but payment for those services or goods is intentionally unfulfilled. This is related to another type of business fraud called “non-delivery of merchandise” where payment is rendered but either the services or goods are never received by the customer. Similarly, “internet auction fraud” is a business crime encapsulating a fraudulent payment or exchange of goods via online auction platforms.
  • Overpayment: This is the intentional act of overpaying for a good or service (or similar monetized transactions) while directing that the overpayment sum be sent back (typically via wire transfer) to the original sender’s account, which is often overseas, occurring undetected until well after the wire transfer is complete. 
  • Charity fraud: This crime is one that solicits donations from individuals or organizations under the guise of the requestor being a respected and legitimately based charitable organization. It is not unusual for these sorts of scams to appear (and just as quickly disappear) very near a newsworthy event, such as a natural disaster or social movement.  


Embezzlement is defined when a person, usually an employee of an organization, is placed in a position where they have access to or are put in charge of money, corporate credit cards, or property, and use that position and access to intentionally steal that money or property. Another example of embezzlement as a white collar crime is when a politician or campaign official misappropriates campaign funds in order to cover their own personal expenses. 


The white collar crime known as extortion is when an organization or a person intentionally and knowingly forces another person to give over their own (or that of a company, store, organization, etc.) money, property, services, or goods. Blackmail, for example, is a type of extortion, but would include the added element of potentially physical or reputational harm to an individual or organization if such illegal transactions were not to occur.  

I have been accused of a white-collar crime. What do I do?

The Law Offices of Robert J. DeGroot recommends what we always do to people who are either being investigated for or have been accused of a crime: Seek and secure legal counsel. Make your choice carefully, but make it quickly. Protecting your rights and potentially your freedom hangs in the balance. 

Securing legal counsel that showcases expertise in handling cases related to the crime you’ve been accused of, along with a proven track record of effectively defending their clients, is essential in ensuring that you can reach the most desirable outcomes for your situation. 

Do they come recommended by family, friends, or trusted advisors? Do they have positive online reviews? Is their billing structure clear? Are they responsive to your inquiries and do they speak to you as though your case is important to them, regardless of how big a firm they are or how many clients they have? 

As you navigate through the complicated pathways of the United States justice system, you deserve the peace of mind that comes with having a trusted partner by your side, one committed to your Constitutional rights.