When it comes to white collar crimes, experts are probably close by. That's because financial activities suspected of involving fraud or other illegal activity are often extremely complex.

Take the case of a recent contract pension arrangement by Structured Investments Co. The company was paying returns of 10% to 12% a year drawn from retirees who had exchanged years of future monthly pension checks for an upfront lump sum. Doesn't necessarily sound illegal, right?

Well, according to some experts, the contracts with private pensioners might be unenforceable under the IRS tax code. Federal laws may also prohibit military retirees from assigning their pensions.

Both federal and state laws may list the specific activities that constitute white collar offenses. Consequently, both state and federal agencies may participate in enforcement efforts. The FBI, the IRS, U.S. Customs, the EPA and the SEC are all agencies that have participated in white-collar crime investigations.

However, experts are frequently required to sort through suspected financial activity before it may be determined illegal, a process that usually requires time. For that reason, white collar defendants often learn they are under investigation before formal criminal charges are brought.

If you are the subject of a white collar investigation, don't delay in consulting with an attorney. Typically, the investigation will involve search warrants, regulatory inspections and interviews. An attorney can ensure your rights are protected throughout that process. An attorney will also be your best advocate if the investigation escalates into formal charges or a trial involving witnesses and experts.

Source: Forbes, "Investors Who 'Buy' Pensions Are Buying Trouble," Daniel Fisher and John Wasik, June 6, 2012