The number of white-collar criminals has been increasing in modern society where technology has transformed the world into a global village. According to Sutherland (49), white-collar criminals have been subject to a number of stereotypes, right from their definition. It started receiving attention in the 1920s when society realized that crime goes beyond holding guns or other weapons and causing harm to others physically, economically, or psychologically. It became apparent that crime could also be committed using a pen and paper, computers, and through other means that many had not considered would constitute a crime. However, modern technologies have seen white-collar crimes take different shapes and forms. There are people who have come to specialize in various aspects of white-collar crime. Society has developed a series of stereotypes about these criminals based on the initial definitions which were given about white-collar crimes. This research paper seeks to identify some of the common stereotypes of white-collar criminals.
In 1938, Gottschalk (89) defined white-collar crime as “A crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” This definition in itself is stereotyped. The first stereotype in this definition is that these criminals are people of respectability and high social status. The claim is not true of all white-collar criminals, but a generalization made based on what society expects of these criminals. Some of the white-collar criminals are destitute individuals unknown to members of society. This definition also points out that white-collar criminals commit crimes in the course of their occupation. It is another generalization that is not true. Some of the white-collar criminals have just specialized in particular crimes that may be outside their occupation. For instance, a teacher may be involved in a bank fraud that is outside his occupation. A banker may also impersonate a police officer to gain some favors.
Society has associated white collar-criminals with high levels of education. They believe that only intelligent individuals can be white-collar criminals. However, this claim is not true. Such criminal acts such as bribery do not need a high level of knowledge or intelligence. Anyone with any level of education can easily engage in bribery. According to Geis (57), many people believe that white-collar criminals are only focused on the financial benefits they can get from their victims. However, it is a stereotype that holds minimal truth. Some of the white-collar criminals may be interested in satisfying psychological needs other than financial benefits. For instance, a blackmailer may be interested in achieving revenge, by subjecting his or her victims to shame or other painful experiences. Such a criminal may also be interested in other immaterial benefits from their victims. Another common stereotype about white-collar criminals is that they do not subject their victims to physical harm. This stereotype associates white-collar criminals with economic gains from their victims other than any physical torture. However, this generalization is not true. Some of these criminals may blackmail their victims and force them to undertake some activities that may constitute physical harm. Some blackmailers may demand sexual favors, and this constitutes physical harm to their victims. Therefore, it means that some of these white-collar criminals may subject their victims to some bodily harm. The notion that they do not subject their victims to any bodily harm is just another stereotype.
Geis, Gilbert. White-collar Criminal: The Offender in Business and the Professions. New Brunswick: Aldine Transaction, 2007. Print.
Gottschalk, Petter. White-collar Crime: Detection, Prevention, and Strategy in Business Enterprises. Boca Raton: Universal Publishers, 2010. Print.
Sutherland, Edwin. White-Collar Crime. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983. Print.