Certain categories of criminal activity are referred to as “white collar” crimes. They tend to use technology, deceit, or false documentation as tools rather than fear or violence in committing offenses such as financially-related crimes, acts of corruption, or bribery. The widespread adoption of the internet and the many devices and technology now available has been increasing used to conduct these types of activity. The FBI explains the term originated in 1939 to describe a wave of criminal activity that was being conducted by those in business and government at the time. The motives are typically for some type of financial gain. Potential victims may include individuals, families, companies or, the taxpayers.
The Rhode Island State Police released their data for white collar criminal activity in the state for 2016. Here are the leading types of crimes based on the number committed:
- Fraud (False Pretenses): 2634
- Fraud (Credit Card or ATM): 908
- Counterfeiting / Forgery: 552
- Fraud (Impersonation): 233
- Embezzlement: 186
- Fraud (Wire): 135
Special Enforcement Division
Rhode Island's White Collar Crime & Public Corruption Unit is designated with investigating these activities, which often have severe implications for victims or the general public. The unit pursues those causing devastating financial problems for victims and attempts to recover assets and/or obtain restitution. It must continually keep up with the latest methods, channels of communications, and technology used by these perpetrators. One particular disturbing trend involves criminals who facilitate child pornography and other internet-based sex crimes, which is the responsibility of the Rhode Island Crimes Against Children Taskforce division.
Fraudulent activity often involves deliberately misrepresenting the truth in order to position someone into vulnerability. The most basic involve conning or swindling unsuspecting victims. Acts of fraudulence are often misinterpreted as larceny—and vice versa. Both offenses are based on orchestrating theft; however, the difference between the two is the method the criminal employs. Fraud is conducted through lies or deceit, while larceny involves the physical theft of something of value. In recent years, more cases have emerged involving welfare fraud where individuals obtain government benefits although they are not entitled to them. Wire fraud is a traditional form of crime that involves methods of communication to electronically access something of value. Others include fraud that exposes a corporate structure, those targeting financial institutions, or involving financial transactions such as mortgages.
Other Common White Collar Crimes
- Bribery: When something of value is exchanged to persuade someone in a position of power or influence to act or rule in some way
- Counterfeiting/forgery: Unlawfully modifying, mimicking, or imitating something genuine for deceitful or fraudulent purposes
- Embezzlement: When someone trusted (such as an employee) unlawfully uses something of value belonging to someone else for personal gain
- Extortion/Blackmail: Efforts to unlawfully obtain something of value by threat or coercion
- Identity Theft: Unlawfully using someone's personal identification information such as name, social security number etc.
- Hacking/Computer Invasions: Unlawfully obtaining access to the network or hardware of another person or entity for some gain
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