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What does white collar crime mean?

We talk about it all of the time: white collar crime. But what does the term mean?

Essentially white collar crime is a crime that is committed by professionals- those who wear white business shirts with a collar. White collar crime usually involves bankers and those in finance, high level government jobs and suit-wearing business people.

White collar crimes are non-violent and are financially motivated. They can include anything from stealing company materials or equipment (stapler?) to large scale swindle, such as that perpetrated by former non-executive chairman of the NASDAQ stock market Bernie Madoff.

When the term was born

Coined in 1939 by famed sociologist Edwin Sutherland the term "White collar crime" was created to describe a crime committed by a respectable working person who was of high social status. When we think of white collar crimes usually we think along the lines of fraud, bribery, income tax evasion and embezzlement.

Other related crimes

There are a whole slew of crimes committed by people while on the job. These include:

· Blue collar crimes. This term was coined in the 1920s and describes those who perform manual labor-or wear a blue uniform. These crimes include drugs, armed robbery, murder, burglary, breaking and entering.

· Corporate crimes are crimes which benefit the investors.

· State-corporate crimes have to do with secret or illegal negotiations between a state and a company.

· Organized transnational crime, include smuggling, terrorism and cybercrime.

· Occupational crimes, usually theft and fraud.

· Crimes related to national interests such as conspiracy or treason.

Why do we commit crimes?

There are many reasons that someone may break a law. Some of these reasons have to do with poverty, drug addiction, desperation and survival. Sometimes we break the law because the opportunity presents itself, we don't think things through or perhaps we have trouble with impulsivity. In fact, sociologists do not always agree as to why we commit crimes but the fact is at some time or another most of us break the law.

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