When a person hears the word “crime,” images of dead bodies or hapless victims being mugged in dark alleys easily come to mind. But violent crime isn’t the only form of crime. When high-flying corporate executives in expensive custom suits commit elaborate schemes for financial gain or a harmless-looking deliveryman charms the old man next door out of his retirement money, they’re guilty of nonviolent but equally serious crimes called “white collar crimes.”

White collar crimes such as insider trading, antitrust violations, counterfeiting, intellectual property theft, and credit card fraud may not involve violence, but their impact on individuals, society and even the economy can be debilitating. Bernie Madoff, for example, operated a multibillion-dollar Ponzi scheme that victimized thousands of investors, while Bank of America contributed to the 2008 financial crisis by selling billions in troubled mortgage-backed securities.

Common Forms of White Collar Crimes

There are many types of white collar crimes, but the following are the most common:

Corporate Fraud

According to the FBI, the majority of the cases of corporate fraud they pursue involve falsification of financial information, insider trading, and schemes designed to conceal corporate fraud activities and impede the regulating bodies such as the Securities and Exchange Commission from conducting their inquiries.


Embezzlement happens when a person entrusted by an employer or another person to handle money or property uses their position to misappropriate funds. An example of embezzlement is when an employee finds ways to funnel company money into their own bank account. Another is when a politician spends campaign funds for their personal expenses.

Ponzi Schemes

Named after Charles Ponzi, a con man who reportedly made $250,000 a day via his mail coupon fraud in the 1920s, a Ponzi scheme is a type of investment scam that promises high returns for little to no risk. People or organizations engaged in Ponzi schemes focus their efforts on attracting new investors to pay the older ones. The scheme falls apart when new customers stop coming in and the flow of new investments dry out.


Extortion occurs when a person coerces an institution or another person into giving up property, money, or services. An example is when gangs force store owners to pay “protection” money. Another is when a blackmail victim pays money to keep someone from publicly divulging information that can potentially harm their reputation.

Bankruptcy Fraud

A person burdened by insurmountable debt can find relief by filing for bankruptcy. This relief, however, comes at the expense of creditors who can only receive a portion of the debtor’s nonessential assets (or assets not necessary to maintain a household and a job). So if a filer intentionally hides property when filling out bankruptcy paperwork, they can be accused of bankruptcy fraud.

NCU’s White Collar Crime Specialization

Northcentral University’s Doctor of Criminal Justice program teaches students how to collaborate, plan, organize, budget and carry out large-scale operations in law enforcement. Students will develop high-level skills in policies, risks and professional and ethical expectations in law enforcement, as well as generate and put into practice independent research methods.

According to Joe Irelan, NCU’s Associate Enrollment Advisor: “These programs can provide a lot of great knowledge to individuals that would like to get into the Police Department, working in the bank industry in the fraud department, or somebody who wants to work for Homeland Security.”

The program offers three areas of focus, namely:

  • Homeland Security – With this specialization, students see the past, present, and future of controlling the United States borders.
  • Policing Specialization – This field of focus teaches students effective police tactics, current issues with law enforcement, and how through leadership these same issues can be improved to protect U.S. citizens.
  • White Collar Crimes – This explores the underground world of advanced accounting and fraud, insider trading, banking cross-selling, and advanced forensic accounting theories and practices.