What are the three major areas of cost associated with white-collar crime? How does that apply to healthcare fraud and computer crime?

Expert Answers
shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The term “white-collar” refers to the professional working class. The implication is that they can wear white-collared shirts because their jobs do not involve manual labor and will not get dirty at work.

“White-collar crime” refers to nonviolent crime committed by such professionals.

There are many types of white-collar healthcare crimes. They can involve doctors, patients, and frauds who present themselves as doctors. In one type of fraud, a criminal organization will steal a medical provider's ID number and set up a fake practice of their own. They then bill Medicaid for phony services and receive payments. There are several victims in this type of crime: the doctor being impersonated, as he still has to pay taxes on all the income he did not really receive as well as the entire Medicaid program, because money is disbursed for no reason, no one is treated. This is a significant loss of the funds meant to help the less fortunate receive care.

In another type of healthcare fraud, some licensed doctors commit the crime of prescribing pain medications (which are often addictive and have a high street-sale value) to patients who don't need them. We have seen this practice explode in the past several decades. It was so prevalent at one time that such doctors, who ran practices called “pill mills,” would place small roadside signs (akin to garage-sale signs) advertising their services as simply “pain management,” with a phone number.

Computer crime, more often now referred to as “cyber crime,” is relatively new, for obvious reasons. It encompasses many possible criminal activities. We hear a lot about identity fraud, which occurs when a criminal assumes the identity of someone else and then uses that identity to make fraudulent purchases. Usually, the criminal manages to do this by stealing an important piece of identification—most often a social security number, and then applying for loans or credit while pretending to be that person. The victim then faces a long, difficult process of proving that he or she was not the one who authorized the transactions. A whole industry of identity protection has sprung up to help deal with this problem.

Another type of computer/ cyber crime we hear a lot about is cyber-bullying. This is a particularly hateful crime in which a person is attacked on social networks and made to feel embarrassed or shamed in some way. It is far too easy for people to attack others, especially others with some sort of vulnerability, while hiding behind the cloak of anonymity afforded by the internet. It is a lot easier to do something unkind to someone when you don't actually have to face them or reveal your identity.

I would break down the areas of cost associated with white-collar crime this way:

1) Public cost: As in the Medicaid example above, public funds are siphoned from the programs and people who need it.

2) Private cost: As in the identity fraud example above, private citizens lose money when they are victims of computer/ cyber crime. (I didn't mention “phishing,” which occurs when criminals send a message or an email that attempts to trick the receiver into clicking on a link that will lead to a fraudulent attempt to separate them from their money.)

3) Personal cost: Victims of cyber-bullying pay a cost in self-esteem and emotional turmoil.

4) Security cost: We know that we have had military and government secrets stolen via internet hacking. We have also heard our power grid is vulnerable to cyber-attack. Perhaps most noteworthy are the (sometimes successful) attempts by terrorist organizations to recruit fledgling terrorists from other countries.