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Many people associated the word "crime" with violence. In reality, a large percentage of the crimes committed are a violation of a white collar crime law. White collar crime law refers to crimes committed by educated professionals in the course of their profession as a rule. "White collar crime" is not a legal term; however, is is a commonly used term within the legal profession. Within the purview of white collar crime law can be found crimes such as fraud, embezzlement, and insider trading, as well as computer hacking, forgery, and bribery, among others.
The term "white collar crime" has only been around since the late 1930s. It got its name from the people who were most likely to commit the crimes — professional males who, at the time, typically wore white-collared shirts to work every day. As a result, the body of law that addresses crimes which are predominately committed by educated, upper-class professionals has come to be known as white collar crime law.
Fraud and embezzlement are two of the most common types of white collar crimes. Fraud involves an intentional deception or a false representation of a fact which induces a person to do something he or she would not otherwise do. Generally, fraud results in the victim parting with money under the false belief that they are getting something of value in return. A person is guilty of embezzlement when he or she fraudulently appropriates money that does not belong to him or her.
Computer crimes and identity theft crimes are becoming more common with the digital age. There are a myriad of opportunities for someone in a position with access to digital information to benefit from using the information for illegal purposes. Likewise, crimes such as insider trading are committed by someone who has private information regarding the stock market and uses the information to his or her benefit.
In practical terms, white collar crime law is no different than any other criminal law. Each of the crimes considered a white collar crime is charged as a crime and is punishable in the same manner as any other crime. The difference tends to be solely in the type of person who commits the crimes. Due to the nature of white collar crimes, only someone in a position of authority, or with access to privileged or private information, is able to commit the crimes. The law, however, makes no distinction between defendants.