Criminal Law

What Are the Most Common Examples of White-Collar Crimes?

White-collar crimes generally involve fraud or misrepresentation for financial benefit. The term white-collar crime may bring up images of businessmen or corporate officers defrauding the government or customers to keep profits for themselves. In reality, white-collar crime can involve just about anyone, from an administrative assistant to an elected government official.

White-collar crimes are often calculated and concealed, which can make them difficult to detect. Unfortunately, during a white-collar crime investigation, innocent people can be caught up in the fraud and may also face criminal charges even though they did nothing illegal. If you are accused of a white-collar crime, contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer for help. It is important to work with a lawyer experienced in defending against white-collar crime charges, as these cases are far different from other criminal offenses.

Types of White-Collar Crimes

According to the Department of Justice, white-collar crimes are "any violation of law committed through non-violent means, involving lies, omissions, deceit, misrepresentation, or violation of a position of trust, by an individual or organization for personal or organizational benefit." Common types of white-collar crime include:

  • Bank fraud
  • Credit card fraud
  • Corporate fraud
  • Insurance fraud
  • Medicare and Medicaid fraud
  • Mortgage fraud
  • Securities fraud and insider trading
  • Tax fraud
  • Identity theft and other computer crimes
  • Environmental offenses
  • False claims and statements
  • Bribery and illegal payments to government officials
  • Unfair trade practices
  • Money laundering
  • Embezzlement
  • Running a Ponzi scheme


Embezzlement involves misappropriating money or property that was entrusted to one's care. Embezzling money is generally based on a person's job or position in a company, where the company or clients entrust that employee or outside vendor with handling or managing money or assets. For example, a financial adviser who takes the funds from an investor for private gain may be considered embezzlement.

Insurance Fraud

Insurance fraud is making a false claim or misrepresentation to an insurance provider for financial gain. Insurance gain can involve policyholders filing a fraudulent claim or a doctor filing a claim for care that was never provided. According to the FBI, the most common insurance fraud scheme is premium diversion, where an insurance agent fails to send premiums to the underwriter and keeps the money for themselves.

Securities Fraud

Securities fraud is a white-collar crime that involves misrepresentations or fraud in trading stocks or commodities or the manipulation of financial markets. There are many types of securities fraud, including pyramid schemes, insider trading, advance-fee schemes, and high-yield-investment fraud. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and FBI are often involved in securities fraud investigations. That means if you are accused of securities fraud, you could be facing federal charges.

Tax Fraud

Tax fraud involves defrauding the IRS or willfully attempting to evade taxes. Tax fraud can be committed by individuals, businesses, and even criminal enterprises. Minor tax fraud may be identified through automated audits or after reports of abuse. Large-scale tax fraud can be complex and involve offshore banking, scam corporations, and foreign trust arrangements.


Public officials are generally limited in what they can accept as cash, gifts, or other favors. It is generally illegal to offer a bribe, accept a bribe, or solicit a bribe. Bribes may be given to get beneficial treatment, win government contracts, or avoid criminal prosecution. Bribery may not seem very different from lobbying, however, lobbying is legal and bribery is not.

Money Laundering

Money laundering involves concealing the illegal source of money by passing it through multiple transactions to make the money appear "clean." "Washing" cash may be done to hide money gained through organized crime, gang activity, foreign money subject to sanctions, or terrorism financing. There are several laundering methods, from operating cash-intensive businesses to complex shell companies and trust structures.

Computer Crimes

White-collar computer crime involves the use of a computer, the internet, or electronic records to commit theft or fraud. Types of white-collar computer crimes include hacking, theft of personal identifying information, phishing, malware attacks, and denial of service (DOS) attacks. Computer crime can occur anywhere, and many computer crimes originate from outside of the U.S., making it more difficult to identify those involved.

Ponzi Schemes

A Ponzi scheme is a type of financial investment fraud where investors are paid profits from more recent investors instead of through legitimate business activity. In general, the investments provide higher than average returns for early investors. As more investors join, the early investors are paid with money from the newer investors. At some point, the scheme falls apart when there are not enough new investors to keep paying returns.

White-Collar Crime Investigations

White-collar crimes often involve investigations from multiple state and federal law enforcement agencies. Investigations may also be conducted internally when a company suspects business fraud, which may then be reported to law enforcement. These criminal activities can be difficult to uncover because they are often intertwined with legitimate, or seemingly legitimate, business activity.

If you are subject to an investigation or have been accused of fraud, you can get legal advice by talking to a criminal defense lawyer. Your attorney will represent your interests and not the interests of the business or insurance companies.