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Does the white collar criminal stereotype hold up?

There's a stereotypical image of a white-collar criminal that people are fairly well acquainted with; after all, that's where the crime gets its name. These crimes are thought to typically be committed by people in suits, with crisp white undershirts, who have the biggest offices and drive luxury cars. They're people who are in high-up positions at the company, who may never interact with the customers, but who run things behind the scenes. Most of them have titles like CEO, CFO or CMO.

So, does this stereotype hold up? In some cases, it does. After all, most white collar crime is done quietly, and it may be all but invisible unless you know how to read accounting reports. Money is being stolen, but it's being done through the altering of records and transferring of funds, not through force -- the way that someone may rob a bank.

However, though executives are tabbed in some of these cases, experts warn that the name itself, and the stereotype that it creates, can be rather misleading. It is very possible for people are the lower levels to commit similar crimes. These people may be entry-level office workers, truck drivers, secretaries, or almost anything else.

For example, a company may give a truck driver a credit card to cover his travel costs. He may then start using it to slowly buy items that he can later return for cash, pocketing the cash. He may never steal millions this way, but it can still be looked at as white collar crime even though he has a blue collar job.

It's important for all employees to know what white collar crime is, how it's defined, and what types of charges can stem from it. This way, if they're ever accused of it in Kansas, they'll know what legal defense options they have and how best to proceed.

Source: Accounting Web, "Inside the Mind of the White-Collar Criminal," Bill Barrett, accessed Sep. 06, 2016

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