White-collar crimes are distinct from common crimes such as extortion, theft, murder, kidnapping, etc.  White-collar crimes do not involve any kind of violence and are committed by people belonging to high political, social, economic status. These people use their high status and power to carry out illegal activities. They use their money power, political influence, religious standing, muscle power to hide crimes committed by them thereby save themselves from penal punishment.

Today the capitalist economy has spread everywhere resulting in the unequal distribution of wealth and income further aggravating exploitation of the weaker sections of society by high-class white-collar criminals who are excessively greedy people who want to have more power, money, and status. Ignorance of people further makes them easy victims of white-collar criminals.


Dr. Sutherland stated that White-collar crimes are committed by highly respectable people with high social status in the course of their occupation.

Some critics have criticized Dr. Sutherland’s definition saying that white-collar crimes are neither necessarily committed in course of occupation nor necessarily committed only by people belonging to a higher status. Such crimes can be committed by people belonging to the upper, middle, or even lower strata of society. For example, tax-evasion need not necessarily be done in course of occupation and can be committed by middle-class people as well. Further, Dr. Sutherland’s definition does not require mensrea which is an essential element of a crime.


Salient characteristics of white-collar crimes are as follows-

  1. Misuse of money and misappropriation of public funds– Many people misuse their high class, money power to gain benefit unlawfully, and people holding high political, social, religious positions misappropriate public funds for illegal gains.
  2. Violation of public trust– Crimes when committed by banks, companies result in a breach of trust. Such corporations and organizations use public money for their benefits and they also violate the trust of their investors.
  3. Committed by elite class– White collar crimes are usually committed by highly educated, well-cultured, rich, elite, and business class people. These people instead of using their money, influence, position, power for the betterment of the common man use it for their illegal gains.


People engaged in the following professions indulge in white-collar crimes-

  • The Medical Professionals– White collar crimes such as selling of kidney or other body parts, illegal abortions, selling sample medicines to patients or chemists, charging exorbitant hospital bills, etc. are done by medical professionals. Making false medical certificates and getting good payment for them in return is a common practice followed by medical professionals. Many doctors make illegal and misleading claims of medical cure through advertisements in magazines, newspapers, radio, television. Similar advertisements for medical surgeries, treatments are harmful to public health. White-collar crimes are committed because people not being vigilant become easy victims of such crimes
  • Educational institutions– Many private schools, colleges, other private educational institutions submit false papers, documents about their institution for getting grants and aids from the government. Further, excessive donations are charged by educational institutions for giving admissions to the students. Huge School fees are collected by schools. Further, separate fees for books, school uniforms are collected by the school from the parents. Fake and bogus enrolment of students has become a common source of illegal income for them. Many educational institutions are owned and run by politicians who give admission to their children or their relatives, not based on merit. They misuse their political power and make such educational institutions commercial centers for getting fake degrees by paying huge money in return. These educational institutions sell degrees and manipulate eligibility certificates, domicile certificates by charging a good amount of money. Many teachers and other staff are exploited by the school authorities by not paying their salaries on time or by paying a meager salary.
  • Legal professionals- Legal professionals are involved in White collar crime through unethical practices such as fabricating evidence, hiring professional witnesses, making false statements, giving fake pieces of evidence, etc thereby violating the code of conduct laid down by the Bar Council of India. Many criminals, gangsters have their advocates who are always ready with bail-bond to protect their criminal clients from getting arrested. Many lawyers because of the peculiar nature of their profession resort to telling a bundle of lies or unethical tactics to survive in this profession.
  • Business Class– People carrying on their own business often involve in white-collar crimes. They engage in malpractices such as restrictive trade, monopoly trade, unfair labor practices, fraudulent dealings, manipulation of profit and loss account or the balance sheet for evading taxes. They engage in illegal practices such as black-marketing, hoarding essential commodities, bribing public servants to get their work done, etc. Thus, businessmen, traders, industrialists commonly commit white-collar crimes. . Illiterate, ignorant, unemployed people are lured by these white-collar criminals by giving false advertisements, false job opportunities, false information in a company’s prospectus. Ignorant people believe this false information and consider such fake advertisements genuine and invest their life savings in them thereby becoming easy victims.
  • Engineering– Engineers mainly engage in illegal underhand dealings with contractors, traders, suppliers, passing substandard material or works being indifferent towards the safety of the common public. These engineers make roads, dams, bridges, canals of sub-standard materials which increases the risk of collapsing the entire structure made of such materials.


Some of the main white-collar crimes prevailing in society are as follows-

  • Hoarding, black-marketing, profiteering– Most of the traders make a lot of black money by engaging in hoarding goods for time being and wait for the demand for the goods to increase and then either supply these goods in the market for sale at a higher price or do black marketing of the goods hoarded by them. Because of the shortage and scarcity of consumer commodities, traders can sell their goods at exorbitant prices.
  • Tax-Evasion- Doctors, Engineers, Lawyers, Bussionessman highly engage in tax evasion. As these people earn huge amounts of money they are supposed to pay a good share of their earnings in the form of taxes. However, they either show less income or pay a fraction of their income as tax.


Some of the remedies to prevent or stop white-collar crimes are as follows-

  • Excessive fines equaling to the sum of money forged should be charged to people committing white-collar crimes.
  • Common people should be made aware of white-collar crimes through awareness programs, legal literacy camps.
  • Public vigilance is very important to save them from white-collar crimes. People must check the authenticity and genuineness of advertisements and prospectus made by fraud companies before investing their life savings in them.
  • Stringent legislation should be made and strictly enforced to prevent white-collar crimes.
  • Political interference should be prevented. Special courts and tribunals should be made for white-collar crimes cases.
  • The public servants found to be misusing their power should be terminated from their official positions.


Dr. Sutherland had pointed out that White collar crimes are more dangerous to society than ordinary crimes as they cause far greater financial loss to society. As there is no effective program for enforcing criminal law against white-collar criminals they commit such crimes without any fear of punishment. We need to note that many times illegal gratification is given to the public servants by the common people themselves to get their work done quickly. Further, doctors are paid a good sum of money to make medical certificates by the people in general. Schools and College authorities are also bribed by people to get admissions, good marks, fake degrees for their children. Thus, members of the community themselves contribute to white-collar crimes willingly or unwillingly. We can say that many times the victims of the white-collar crimes are themselves to be blamed.

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