Technology and White-Collar Crime

Crime is not only committed by the disadvantaged members of the society. According to Taylor et al., (2003), members of the privileged socio-economic class also commit crimes that are different from those committed by the lower class. The types of crime committed by the privileged socio-economic class are referred to as white-collar crimes. Examples of white-collar crimes are embezzlement, corporate espionage, money laundering, and internet fraud schemes. The two white-collar crimes that have been selected for analysis in this paper are embezzlement and money laundering.

Taylor et al (2003), defines embezzlement as a form of white-collar crime where individuals who are entrusted with certain assets misappropriate the assets by using them for intended purposes. Embezzlement has been recognized as crime since the 15th Century because it is essentially a violation of trust. In most instances, the embezzler is involved in some form of fiduciary relationship with the victim, either as a trustee or as an employee. Embezzlement schemes are rarely carried out by corporations or organizations, but are often linked to individuals. Traditionally, employees charged with the responsibility of managing their employers’ assets have been engaged in physical theft of property or money.

Embezzlement has greatly been influenced by technology since the advent of computer age. Taylor et al (2003) points out, the increased use of computers in management of business finances has charged the strategies used by embezzlers to misappropriate their employers’ finances. For instance, before the arrival of technology, there was a limit to cash or property that could actually be stolen by an embezzler. Nowadays, many employers store their financial information in computers. This information is left under the management of an employee who finds easy time to manipulate it. Due to the existence of technology, modern embezzlement schemes use computerized records to steal their employers’ money and property unlike the traditional embezzlement schemes.

Embezzlement can cause long-term negative impacts on employers or companies whose money has been embezzled. For example, embezzlement can make a company to become bankrupt and unable to meet its financial obligations. When this occurs, an organization may be forced to terminate its operations indefinitely. Additionally, embezzlement can make an organization to be delisted from a stock-exchange or material asset sales. This may make the company to gain a negative reputation within the industry in which it operates (Taylor et al., 2003). Although technology has greatly influenced embezzlement in the modern business world, law enforcement might use the same technology to address this form of white-collar crime. For instance, law enforcement officers can use technology to profile those embezzle. Since modern embezzlers can steal millions of dollars with simple keystrokes, highly effective screening devices can be implemented to track the flow of company’s finances, property, and data files (Taylor et al., 2003).

An act of concealing the source of assets that have been acquired illegally is known as money laundering. The main objective of money laundering is to prevent identification of ownership of funds by creating an illegitimate paper trail. It is always difficult to determine the rate of money laundering that is taking place in any business setting. However, financial experts approximate that 300 billion United States dollars is laundered every year. Traditionally, criminals used to employ three strategies to accomplish their money laundering missions. First, money launderers could physically transfer cash from an organization to a company that has less strict financial reporting requirements. Second, the money launderer could quickly transform cash into a legal property such as a real estate. Third, money launderers could divide huge amounts of money into smaller portions in order to conceal the origin, a method known as smurfing.

Like embezzlement, technology has greatly influenced the manner in which money laundering takes place. According to Menon and Kumar (2005), an increase in the use of technology, particularly the Internet and telecommunications has increased opportunities for criminals who want to engage in money laundering. Computerized networks provide platforms where money is easily and swiftly moved from organizations to illegitimate accounts. The electronic revolution in the banking industry allows large-scale movement of cash in electronic forms. Money laundering has severe impacts on victims because it may lead to bankruptcy and delisting from the stock exchange. These may force a company to close down and acquire a negative reputation in the industry where it operates (Taylor et al., 2003).

Law enforcement can use four categories of technology to effectively address money laundering. These include wire transfer screening, knowledge acquisition, knowledge sharing, and data transformation. According to Menon and Kumar (2005), wire transfer helps investigators to determine where they should target further investigations. Additionally, knowledge acquisition will assist law enforcement officers to construct new profiles for use in screening. Dissemination of money laundering profiles and production of data that can be easily screened and analyzed, are achieved through knowledge sharing and data transformation techniques respectively.

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