White Collar and Blue Collar Crimes

  • August 5, 2017
  • 9:27 am
  • Vaishnavi Sen

The distinction between white collar and blue collar crime is an important one for police and for criminologists; in seeking to develop initiatives to prevent crime, society must understand how criminals operate. The legal system rarely makes distinctions between blue and white collar crime; in fact, colors are not legal terms at all. However, the distinction between blue and white collar crime can significantly impact all aspects of an offense, from arrest to prosecution.




Blue collar is colloquialism applied to positions involving significant amounts of manual labor. The term is typically applied to positions involving low skill levels and low wages, although not every blue collar position matches that description. As such, many people call criminal activities involving significant amounts of manual labor that are committed by indigent defendants “blue collar crime.” The characterization includes all violent crimes and a number of property crimes, including but not limited to assault, robbery, burglary and murder.

For the most part, blue collar crime is categorized by high risks and low rewards. High clearance rates are the norm; in 2010, law enforcement agencies in Minnesota cleared 79 percent of homicides, 68 percent of aggravated assaults, 44 percent of rapes, and 26 percent of robberies.

A few crimes like burglary and property theft had much lower clearance rates in the same jurisdiction over the same period, but the rates are still normally higher than clearance rates for white collar crimes. Arson, which had only four percent of offenses cleared by arrest, still has a higher clearance rate than credit card fraud. Reported losses for most blue collar crimes are normally in the hundreds of dollars.

Sentencing for blue collar crimes hinges upon the specific offense charged and what occurred during its commission. Many blue collar crimes involve confronting the victim directly; crimes such as murder, aggravated assault, and robbery necessarily require the offender to encounter the victim. Even crimes committed by defendants who are actively looking to avoid a confrontation with the victim, such as burglars, still entail a risk of a confrontation. A burglary can easily turn into a robbery. As such, the penalties for blue collar crime tend to be more severe than other types of crime. Sentences are longer, perpetrators are incarcerated in higher security institutions, and probation or parole can be more difficult to obtain.


According to the attorneys, white collar crimes “take on a variety of forms and concern a significant array of different subject matters.” White collar is a term used by society to denote professionals and those who perform administrative tasks. The term references the standard white collar of a dress shirt. White collar workers are typically skilled workers who perform creative and critical thinking tasks to resolve a wide variety of problems.

White collar crime is a term that applies to a wide variety of conducts committed in such settings by such people. It includes certain nonviolent crimes like fraud, embezzlement, insider trading, and identity theft. White collar crime is distinguished from blue collar crime in two important ways.

First, the cases are very difficult to prosecute. In many cases where one stranger defrauds another, identifying the perpetrator will be difficult. Even proving that someone used fraudulent information does not mean that he or she initially took the information or knowingly committed any offense. Even in the event of an embezzlement or identity theft where the victim knows the defendant, victims are often reluctant to prosecute the case; if the victim initially entrusted the property or information to the defendant, proving theft is often difficult. These factors drive clearance rates down.

Second, white collar offenses are often far more complex than blue collar offenses. A white collar grand theft may involve setting up a network of shell companies that produce phony invoices which the perpetrator approves on behalf of his or her employer; a blue collar grand theft may involve breaking a car window, grabbing a used laptop computer, and running away. This means that identifying that a crime has taken place is more difficult and that the crimes are committed by more sophisticated defendants who are more likely to eliminate the evidence trail.

Sentencing used to be another distinguishing factor. Crime punishments, “can include fines, restitutions, and jail or prison time.” Significant frauds perpetrated by white collar criminals like Bernie Madoff in recent years has raised public awareness of the issue. Committing a white collar fraud often requires the defendant to commit other criminal acts including wire fraud and mail fraud. Cases that are vigorously prosecuted often result in so many counts that the penalties can amount to a life sentence if the sentences are served concurrently.

While blue collar and white collar are not legal terms, the distinction between the two types of crime is still important to the legal system. Crimes involving violence normally result in longer prison sentences and more vigorous prosecution than those without the threat of physical harm. White collar crimes without a sympathetic victim are often viewed as less severe, the cases are far more difficult to prove, and the defendants are much less likely to get caught. However, the crime is no less serious and the prosecution no less real. Anyone facing any criminal charges should seek legal counsel immediately.


The main differences are:

  • Socioeconomic status of criminal
  • Resources and power required to commit the crime
  • Type of damage that is done
  • Whether or not the criminal is actively present during the crime

A white-collar criminal, referring to a criminal who is a white-collar worker, is generally in a higher strata of society. They are in what may be called the middle class or upper-middle class. White-collar workers are workers employed in clerical, professional, or administrative fields, such as law, politics, or finance. A white-collar criminal, then, is a criminal who is employed in this field and commits a crime related to that field. A blue-collar criminal, on the other hand, is in a lower strata of society, typically the working class. The crimes committed by a blue-collar criminal are not related to white-collar fields, and include crimes like murder and armed robbery. The phrase “blue-collar criminal” is not used as often as “white-collar criminal”. White-collar criminals can commit blue-collar crime, such as armed robbery or murder, but do not often do so, or are not referred to as blue-collar criminals or white-collar criminals specifically for their crime.

A white-collar crime, such as fraud, requires access to resources like finance and power structures, which blue-collar criminals do not have access to. For example, a typical carpenter could not readily commit tax fraud, because he does not ordinarily have access to the financial resources that a banker may have.

White-collar crime in itself does not usually cause bodily harm. It generally involves the transference of resources, in most cases money, or intellectual property, but does not directly cause bodily harm to the victim of the crime. Income tax evasion, for example, will ensure the white-collar criminal has more money at the cost of governments not properly receiving their taxes, but will not cause direct harm to anyone. However, a loss of resources may impact negatively on the victim’s life circumstances. In addition, white-collar crime is not done in an up-close and personal manner. White-collar criminals will conduct their affairs from behind their resources and companies. Blue-collar crime, on the other hand, usually causes bodily harm or direct damage, and is done directly to the victim. A crime such as physical assault will involve direct bodily harm to the victim of the crime in addition to requiring the criminal to be actively present during the crime.


White collar criminality has become a global phenomenon with the advance of commerce and technology. Like any other country, India is equally in the grip of white collar criminality.

The reason for enormous WHITE COLLAR CRIME IN INDIA

White collar criminality has become a global phenomenon with the advance of commerce and technology. Like any other country, India is equally in the grip of white collar criminality. The reason for enormous increase in white collar crime in recent decades is to be found in the fast developing economy and industrial growth of this developing country. The Santhanam Committee Report in its findings gave a vivid picture of white collar crimes committed by persons of respectability such as businessmen, industrialists, contractors and suppliers as also the corrupt public officials . The Report of the Vivin Bose Commission of Inquiry into the affairs of Dalmia Jain group of companies in 1963 highlights how these industrialists indulge in white collar crimes such as fraud , falsification of accounts, tampering with records for personal gains and tax evasion etc. Similar observations re made by Mr Justice M.C Chagla about the big business magnate Mundhra who wanted to “build up an industrial empire of dubious means.” There were as many as 124 prosecutions against this business tycoon and companies owned or controlled by him between 1958 to 1960 and as many as 113 of them resulted into conviction.

  • Hoarding, Black Marketing and Adulteration
  • Tax evasion


White collar crimes are also rampant in business world. There have always been instances of violation of trust. Sutherland made a careful study of a number of large. corporations and business houses in United States and found that they were involved in illegal contracts, combinations or conspiracies in restraint of trade, misrepresentation in advertising, infringements against copyrights and trade marks, unfair labour practices, bribing public officials and so on. The public hardly knows the trickery of business criminals as they treat, it as not too important for their purpose.

Sutherland attributed the highest degree of criminality to business world which includes traders, businessmen and industrialists. It has been held that “business communities in India of large and small merchants are basically dishonest bunch of crooks nowhere in the world do businessmen get rich so quickly as they do in India”

The Report of the Monopolies Inquiry Commission expressed great concern about the chronic problem of hoarding, profiteering and black marketing of essential commodities by traders in India. In times of shortage and scarcity of consumer commodities, the traders withdraw the stock and subsequently dispose it of at exorbitant prices .

The Santhanam Committee Report on Prevention of Corruption, observed that Indian businessmen build up secret hoards of foreign exchange abroad through under invoicing of exports and over invoicing of imports violating the Imports & Exports Laws and Foreign Exchange Regulations.


Although bribery is an offence under the Prevention of Corruption Act, 1988 and both, bribe taker as well as the bribe giver are equally punishable, but commercial agents and public officials indulge in illegal gratification for their personal gain and the legal restraints provided for the purpose are hardly adequate to cure this menace. It may, however, be pointed out that all bribery cases are not necessarily white collar crimes because white collar criminality is confined to only those illegal activities which the persons of prestigious group high social states commit in course, of their legitimate business or occupation for financial gain.

Adulteration of edible foodstuffs is also frequently committed by businessmen which is injurious to public health. The sale and production of spurious drugs and sub standard medicines by manufacturers is yet another white collar crime which enables businessmen to earn huge illegal profits .

White collar crimes also operate in insurance business where both the insure d as well as insurer earn considerable profit by making false and fabricated claims. Instances are not wanting when intentional house burning, automobile destruction and even murders are planned by the persons of respectable community in order to make good fortunes from the manipulated insurance claims.



The latest developments in information technology and electronic media especially during 1990’s have given rise to a new variety of computer related white collar crime which is commonly called cyber crimes. The widespread growth of these crimes has become a matter of global concern and a challenge for the law enforcement agencies in the new millennium. Because of the peculiar nature of these crimes, they can be committed anonymously and far away from the victim; without being physically present there. Further, cyber criminals have a major advantage; they can use computer technology to inflict damage without the risk of being caught. The cyber crimes cover a wide range of illegal computer related activities which include offences such as theft of communication services, industrial espionage , dissemination of pornographic and sexually offensive material in cyber space, electronic money laundering and tax evasion, electronic vandalism, terrorism and extortion, tele-marketing frauds, illegal interception of telecommunication, etc .

In fact, there is a cyber crime wave in the 21st century. Presently, viruses are the most common problems which are causing serious damage to computer systems. Most viruses just replicate themselves, but many also cause damage. T here are now more ‘than 5000 different strains of viruses,. across the globe. For instance, ‘Love Bug’ virus of May 2000 caused severe damage to working internet sites, So also the virus recently developed by Pakistan has defaced the Indian web site.

Besides virus, there are some common cyber offences which are directed, against computer systems, networks or data. Notable among them are:

(1) Pheakering: It is a way to circumvent the billing mechanism of, telephones allowing anyone to call anywhere in the world literally without any cost.

(2) Internet frauds: Cyber space now provides a wide variety of investment opportunities opening new areas for deceit or, fraud. Electronic funds transfer systems have begun to proliferate, hence there is risk of transactions being intercepted or diverted. Now a days valid credit card numbers can be intercepted electronically as well as physically and the digital information stored on a card can be counterfeited.

(3) Hackers: Hacker is one, who enjoys ex programmable systems and knows, how to strelet their capacity, computer hackers may affect the commercial web sits. or e mail systems thus paralyzing the entire business.

(4), Stalking: In stalking, persistent messages. are, sent, to unwilling recipients thus causing them annoyance, worry and mental torture.

(5) E mail security invasion It means to encrypt the E mail and, make it private and non viewable to others.

(6) Money Laundering: It is a kind of cyber crime in which money is illegally down loaded in transit.

(7) Data Diddling It mean’s changing or erasing of data in subtle ways which makes it difficult to put the data back or be certain of its accuracy.

It may be stated that just as the legitimate organisations in the private or public .sector rely upon information systems for communication or record keeping so too the cyber criminal organisations carry on their illegal activities by enhanced cyber space technology. Commenting on this Eric Ellen, one of the officials of the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) has predicted that information technology is not only reshaping the mode, of corporate functioning and emerging new business strategies but it is dramatically increasing the number of potential cyber criminals, According, to him, there is bound to be simultaneous increase in the incidence of cyber crimes with the new internet sites and users which currently totals more than 2l5 million worldwide .

Since cyber criminals pose a major threat to computer networks all around. the world, efforts are being made to workout a Model Anti cyber Criminal Law to arrest cyber crimes at global level. A special expert Working Group meeting was convened in October, 1998 in Tokyo under the auspices of the United Nations to sort out legal problems involved in combating trans Border cyber criminality.

The European Committee of Experts on Crime in Cyber space has prepared two Draft Conventions on Cyber crimes in April 2001 to work, out strategies and fostering international co operation for tackling the problem of security against cyber crimes.

Experience has shown that the real problem for every organization that investigates cyber crime is the lack of Uniformity in laws against States and countries. There, is also general lack of protection in this area of crime. Most of the cases of illegal access or damages remain unreported due to victim’s fear of exposure or loss Of public faith and confidence.

In view of the expanding dimensions of cyber crimes, there is urgent need for a model legislation to tackle the growing incidence of these crimes. It hardly needs to be stated that the criminal law must continue to evolve if it is to adequately address to new developments in technology.

It is rather disappointing to note that though white collar crimes such as black market activities, evasive price violations, rent-ceiling violations, rationing-law violations, illegal financial manoeuvres etc. by the businessmen are widespread in society, no effective program for repressing them so far been launched by the law enforcement agencies. Perhaps the reason for white collar crimes being carried on unabated is that these crimes are committed generally by influential persons who are shrewd enough to resist the efforts of law, enforcement against them.