George F. Hildebrandt
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How do people get involved in white-collar crime?

Society may have a stereotype in mind when it comes to a white-collar criminal. Likely the image is of a middle-aged white male in a high-ranking position greedily stealing hundreds of thousands to fund his lavish lifestyle. While this certainly is a common story, it is not the full picture.

Many people get caught up in white-collar crimes unintentionally. How do everyday employees find themselves involved in theft and facing criminal charges?

Financial desperation

Often, a contributing factor to stealing company money is financial insecurity. A major event occurred that negatively impacted the person's finances, such as a medical emergency that came with expensive bills the person cannot pay. The employee may justify stealing to stay afloat with the promise of paying the money back. However, after the first time, it becomes easier to continue the crime rather than stop. 


According to Hiscox's 2018 report, multiple employees admitted their involvement in a single embezzlement scheme 79% of the time, with the average group size being three people. One person may come up with the idea and convince others to join to hide the trail and reap the monetary benefits. Sometimes the ringleader is a manager who recruits those in lower positions. These employees may feel pressured to participate to save their jobs or fit in with the culture of shady activity.


Companies are not perfect, and bosses can do hurtful things to those they supervise. Employees may feel anger at unfair behavior, including termination, and choose to retaliate or "balance the scales" by defrauding the business. They may not need the money but know the action will hurt their boss.

Personality traits

Even if none of the above factors are present, someone may still choose to engage in white-collar crimes. This usually happens with those who share one or more of these personality types:

  • Thrill seeker/risk-taker
  • Narcissist
  • Charmer

These traits make getting away with crime easier, but they also tend to lead to harsher legal penalties.

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