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What Is Criminal Fraud?
Criminal fraud is a form of white collar crime, and often involves a breach of a special duty or trust that causes another person harm. Specifically, fraud charges entail a person lying or concealing information from another, and the other person relies on the information, or lie, and is hurt by it. The central component of a fraud conviction includes conduct that is deceitful, which can take many forms such as:
- Statements made to another person
- Concealment of a fact
- Falsifying information or documents
- Producing a fake item
Criminal fraud can be a broad term for a number of criminal charges that encompass different types of illegal conduct. The criminal offenses that fall under criminal fraud are defined by individual state laws or statutes, as well as federal statutes. While the laws between states may differ, here are some of the most common fraud crimes.
Different Types of Fraud Cases
Counterfeiting may include producing counterfeit currency, forging documents, or manufacturing fake goods. This includes a company making knock-off versions of a designer label, like a designer purse or shoes. One of the more widely known variations of this criminal fraud is counterfeiting currency, or making fake money, which is a federal crime. However, many states have laws against counterfeiting as well. For example, forging a driver’s license, birth certificate, or other official state identification is illegal under state law.
Though tax fraud is typically thought of as a civil violation that requires you to pay a penalty or fine, there are circumstances where you may be charged with an actual crime. This may occur through evading taxes, willfully failing to collect or pay over taxes for a business, or failing to file a tax return or pay taxes at all.
One of the most prevalent criminal fraud offenses prosecuted is mail fraud, which is a federal crime. Mail fraud typically occurs when a person sends a letter or a fake bill, attempting to take money from the person who receives the letter. But under federal law, this offense may be applicable to any conduct by a person attempting to or successfully acting in a way that defrauds another through the United States Postal Service (USPS), or even other interstate mailing services.
Another common instance of criminal fraud is through insurance fraud. Insurance fraud occurs when a person acts in a way to deceive an insurance company in order to collect money or benefits they are not entitled to. Most states have fraud bureaus to investigate possible occurrences of insurance fraud, but sometimes insurance fraud like healthcare fraud is considered a federal crime as well.
Computer, Internet, or Wire Fraud
As our technology keeps growing, so too does the number of offenses for criminal computer, internet, or wire fraud. Historically referred to as wire fraud, these offenses include a broad spectrum of conduct where a person uses a means of electronic communication like a phone, or a computer or another device with internet access, in order to commit fraud. This includes activity such as computer or network hacking, internet phishing, investment fraud, identity theft, or stealing, changing, or deleting records on a device.
Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud is a criminal offense for when a person fraudulently obtains the credit card of another person and uses it, or forges a credit card to use in someone else’ name. This includes someone stealing your credit card out of your wallet, or a clerk in a store stealing your credit card information without your knowledge when you go to check out. More frequently, this offense is popping up online with hackers stealing personal information from shopping websites, or creating fake websites in order to obtain credit card information.
Another type of criminal fraud is loan fraud. This occurs when a person, or sometimes a business, knowingly makes a false statement of material fact to a bank, mortgage lender, other financial institution, or federal government in order to obtain approval for a loan. Even though the lender may not lose money from the deceit, it is still considered a crime since this conduct involves making a false or misleading statement that influences the decision making process for the lender.
Auto Dealer Fraud
This is a specific type of fraud that deals with deceitful and unlawful sales practices by automotive dealers. While some states consider this a civil deceptive trade practice, other jurisdictions consider auto fraud a criminal offense under state law. Typically, this offense occurs when an auto dealer intentionally makes a misrepresentation of material fact, even though the dealer knows it is false, in order to entice you to buy a car from them.
How Serious Is A Criminal Fraud Charge?
Don’t let the white collar fool you, being accused of fraud may lead to criminal charges for which you may be arrested and convicted if found guilty. This crime may fall under state or federal law, and on some occasions both. This means depending on the situation, you may find yourself facing charges for criminal fraud in both federal and state court.
While some forms of criminal fraud may be a misdemeanor, oftentimes this offense leads to a felony charge. Some penalties for criminal fraud may be imprisonment, probation, or restitution. If you have a criminal history of fraud crimes or embezzlement, you may find yourself facing a more severe punishment, like a longer prison sentence.
Do I Need a Criminal Fraud Defense Attorney?
If you are accused of criminal fraud it will be in your best interest to contact an experienced criminal defense attorney. Just like some law firms focus on crimes like DUI, some criminal defense attorneys focus on criminal fraud cases.
An effective criminal defense lawyer may help you to get a lesser sentence or have the charges dismissed altogether. Various factors will impact how your case is handled. For instance the severity of the criminal fraud or any prior bad acts could impact any penalties you are given. These factors can be properly handled if you choose to hire an experienced criminal fraud defense attorney that has handled cases such as yours before.
Before you sign any paperwork and form an attorney-client relationship, know that many criminal defense attorneys offer a free case evaluation.