Lying, cheating, and stealing.  That’s white-collar crime in a nutshell. The term—reportedly coined in 1939—is now synonymous with the full range of frauds committed by business and government professionals…

                                                                                                         –FBI

According to the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C), 2010 National Public Survey on White Collar Crime, 24% of American households are the victim of white collar crime. – 2010 National Public Survey on White Collar Crime, Pg 8:

Yet only 11.7% of these crimes were reported to law enforcement.  Pg 8

This is proof that white collar crime is not a faceless offense that happens to other people…  …This is a serious matter that affects people from all walks of life.

                                                                    -NW3C Director Don Brackman

The report goes on to state, in pertinent part:

…the data captured in this study likely understates the problem, the data suggests that white collar crime significantly affects U.S. Citizens… …Even at the understated rate of 24.2% (for households), white collar crime victimization is occurring  much more frequently than property crime and violent crime combined.

                                                                                                    – Pg. 22

According to D.O. Friedrichs, the author of White Collar Crime and the Class-Race-Gender Construct: 

The victims of white-collar crime, particularly that which produces hazardous products and corporate practices, are often minorities, women, and the poor.

Like the crime of rape I discussed in Part one of this series, this crime affects a pandemic level of Americans, yet the majority of perpetrators, 88.3% never get reported to law enforcement.

Like the statistics for rape, these statistics also empower perpetrators.

However we, as citizens, can educate and empower ourselves to reduce the risk that we or our loved ones will be victimized.

When you receive a phone call and you don’t recognize the phone number, let it go to voice mail, but save it, watch for it again.  Do a Google search on the number to ensure it is from a business.  If the number continues to call, eventually answer it and find out who is calling.

NEVER give or confirm your name.  You have NO CLUE who is on the other end of the line.  They say they are from your bank, but they could have stolen your information from anywhere.   Always get them to identify themselves, the individual, the organization, the organization’s phone number and its address.  You can even ask for their business license number.  While orally providing this information doesn’t confirm they are legitimate, you at least know who they are attempting to impersonate.

If they identify themselves as a collection agent, attempting to get you to pay them money, request evidence of the debt.  Do this even if you know you did business with the company the collection agent claims he/she is attempting to collect the debt for.

Under the Fair Debt Collection Act, this is your right.

Sending you a bill does not constitute evidence of a debt.

Here is a story about a scammer who used a debt collection company to scam his victims out of millions.  This is just one example of many.

In some cases debt collectors are sold debt accounts from large organizations that aren’t valid.  Bank of America has sold accounts to debt collectors that were already repaid, without telling the debt collection agency.

If you question whether or not a business is legitimate, you can verify if a business is legitimate is conducting a Better Business Bureau or government business license search.  The BBB has affiliate organizations across the country and maintains records of many businesses, even those that are closed or are not members.  These businesses are rated just like their members.  While this is no guarantee that the business isn’t committing fraud, it allows you to find and/or confirm the validity of the business.  It can provide a variety of useful information, including the name of the principal officers or owners of the business.

Many state governments have database searches that can be conducted online, for free, to determine if a business is legitimate.  All of them have an agency you can contact and have the person validate the business’s license status over the phone.

If you feel you or someone you know is the victim of a white collar crime, report it.  Get a case number so you can follow up on it to get status and make sure others know about your perpetrator as well.  Ripoffreports.com is a good place to that citizens can put the word out.   There is a high possibility that you were not their first victim, nor will you be their last, so the more people you can inform about the scam or fraud, the greater the impact.

This kind of community engagement makes communities stronger.

For additional tips and information, do an online search for white collar crime or fraud, there are numerous websites that provide good information on how to deal with this largely overlooked crime.  Many of the sites are sponsored by government agencies themselves, to help consumers.

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