White-collar crime isn't always carried out simply because someone sees an opportunity and decides to exploit it, even if it's against the law. Researchers have found that the economy plays a big role, with financial hardships causing a rise in these types of crimes. In short, when the unemployment rate goes up and people simply have less money, they're more likely to attempt fraud, embezzlement and other such actions.
This was especially apparent in 2009, for instance. The economic recession had been going on for over a year, and employers noted that crime had visibly risen in that time.
One interesting thing to note is that relatively "minor" crimes are generally the ones that become more common. An employee skims a little bit of money off of the top or steals from the office. People commit credit card fraud to try to get a bit extra without working for it. People commit insurance fraud, perhaps feeling that the insurance companies still have plenty of money and they may be able to take just a little bit when they need it most. Identity theft and data breaches also rise.
These are crimes driven by need. People are out of work. Families that used to have two working adults now just have one, meaning the spouse who still works may try to bring in some additional money on the side. When the economy is down, these crimes are simply more likely and people are more willing to take the risk.
Intriguingly, large-scale crimes tend to decline with recessions and increase as the economy recovers. In a strong economy, returns on investments are good, for example, so people may not be as likely to see signs of investment fraud, pyramid schemes, and the like. The Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme was exposed, one expert said, because of the recession.
Your Rights When Accused
White collar crimes do happen in both good and bad economic times. While it's important to know the role that the economy plays, it's more important for those who have been accused of financial crimes to know what legal rights they have.
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