One in Four Households Victim of White Collar Crime: Report

white collar crimeWhite collar crime now affects more Americans than all other forms of crime combined, according to the a new report published by the the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).

Conducted by the NW3C and the Bureau of Justice Assistance, the 2010 National Public Survey on White Collar Crime found that nearly one in four American households were victims of white collar crime during the past 12 months.The survey of 2,503 adults from June to August 2010 asked respondents about personal and household experiences involving mortgage fraud, credit card fraud, identity theft, unnecessary home or auto repairs, price misrepresentation and losses due to dishonest stockbrokers, fraudulent business ventures and Internet scams.

"This is proof that white collar crime is not a faceless offense that happens to other people," said NW3C Director Don Brackman in a statement. "This is a serious matter that affects people from all walks of life."

The NW3C is a non-profit membership group that studies white collar crime and works with law enforcement and companies. The group also partners with the FBI on the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

According to the survey, Americans consider many forms of white collar crime (faking drug labels, identity theft, market rigging) more serious than auto theft or assault. The most common crimes reported in the survey were credit card fraud and unnecessary repairs. A majority of those surveyed – 70% – believe white collar crime contributed to the current economic crisis and nearly half of them said the government isn't doing enough to fight white collar crime.

The survey also shows that more than 88% of white collar crime incidents are never reported to law-enforcement agencies. "You wouldn't hesitate to call the police if someone broke into your car," Brackman said. "You shouldn't hesitate to call them if someone breaks into your bank account."

The survey examined victimization, reporting behaviors and pubic perceptions of white collar crime. Below are some of the survey's key findings.

White Collar Crime is Prevalent in America
Americans are victimized by white collar crime more than all other forms of crime combined.
  • Nearly 1 in 4 households experienced at least one form of white collar crime in 2010.
  • 17% of individual respondents reported experiencing at least one form of white collar crime.
  • The most common white collar crimes were credit card fraud, price misrepresentation and unnecessary repairs.
White collar crime victims were far more likely to report incidents to financial institutions (credit card companies and banks) than law enforcement. Nearly half of all known incidents went unreported, and of all household victimizations:
  • 54.7% were reported.
  • 11.7% were reported to law enforcement.
  • Most reports were made to banks or credit card companies, which might help victims recover lost money.
Americans Takes White Collar Crime Seriously
Respondents were asked to compare the seriousness of a white collar crime to traditional crimes.
  • Overall, respondents viewed white collar crime as slightly more serious than traditional types of crime.
  • Offenses committed by organizations were viewed more negatively than those committed by individuals.
  • Crimes committed by offenders in a position of trust were seen as more troubling.
Respondents were also questioned about the impact of white collar crime on the economic crisis, as well as the government's response.
  • A majority believed that white collar crime has contributed to the economic crisis.
  • Nearly half the of all Americans believe that government is not devoting enough resources to combat white collar crime.
A Shift to White Collar Crime
Street crime has been declining for decades, and new data suggests criminals are turning to white collar crime for the following reasons:
  • It provides a higher return on investment for organized crime.
  • It's better suited to the nation's changing demographics.
  • It dovetails with changing employment patterns.
  • It exploits the growing information economy.
  • It reaps greater profits thanks to the popularity of the Internet.
  • It takes advantage of the widespread adoption of consumer electronics.
You can read an executive summary of the report.
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