In the broadest sense, a fraud is a deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and is also a civil law violation.
Many hoaxes are fraudulent, although those not made for personal gain are not technically frauds. Defrauding people of money is presumably the most common type of fraud, but there have also been many fraudulent "discoveries" in art, archaeology, and science.
In criminal law
is the crime
or offense of deliberately deceiving
another in order to damage them usually, to obtain property or services unjustly.
Fraud can be accomplished through the aid of forged
objects. In the criminal law of common law
jurisdictions it may be called "theft by deception," "larceny
by trick," "larceny by fraud and deception" or something similar.
Fraud for profit involves industry professionals. There are generally multiple loan transactions with several financial institutions involved. These frauds include numerous gross misrepresentations including: income is overstated, assets are overstated, collateral is overstated, the length of employment is overstated or fictitious employment is reported, and employment is backstopped by conspirators. The borrower's debts are not fully disclosed, nor is the borrower's credit history, which is often altered. Often, the borrower assumes the identity of another person (straw buyer). The borrower states he intends to use the property for occupancy when he/she intends to use the property for rental income, or is purchasing the property for another party (nominee). Appraisals almost always list the property as owner-occupied. Down payments do not exist or are borrowed and disguised with a fraudulent gift letter. The property value is inflated (faulty appraisal) to increase the sales value to make up for no down payment and to generate cash proceeds in fraud for profit.
Marriage Fraud can take several forms and is the act of entering a marriage for personal gain rather than a genuine desire to enter into a sincere marital relationship. Marriage Fraud is usually associated with obtaining immigration benefits. In the United States, marriage fraud for immigration purposes is punishable under INA §204(c)(1) and the Immigration Marriage Fraud Amendments of 1986. Possible criminal penalties include $250,000 and 5 years in prison as well as deportation and a permanent bar against receiving future immigration status. Marriage Fraud can be either unilateral or bilateral Unity and Immigration Policy in the United States In a unilateral marriage fraud, only one party is aware of the fraud and the fraud is against both the immigration service as well as the other party. The innocent party may file a lawsuit and/or annulment of the marriage. In a bilateral fraud, both parties are aware of it and both parties are subject to criminal penalties.
In academia and science, fraud can refer to academic fraud the falsifying of research findings which is a form of scientific misconduct and in common use intellectual fraud signifies falsification of a position taken or implied by an author or speaker, within a book, controversy or debate, or an idea deceptively presented to hide known logical weaknesses. Journalistic fraud implies a similar notion, the falsification of journalistic findings.
Fraud can be committed through many methods, including mail, wire, phone, and the internet (computer crime and internet fraud). The difficulty of checking identity and legitimacy online, the ease with which hackers can divert browsers to dishonest site and steal credit card details, the international dimensions of the web and ease with which users can hide their location, all contribute to making internet fraud the fastest growing area of fraud.
Acts which may constitute criminal fraud include:
- Marriage Fraud to obtain immigration benefits INA §204(c)(1),
- bait and switch
- confidence tricks such as the 419 fraud, Spanish Prisoner, and the shell game
- false advertising
- identity theft
- false billing
- psychic and occult charlatanism
- forgery of documents or signatures
- taking money which is under your control, but not yours (embezzlement)
- health fraud, selling of products of spurious use, such as quack medicines
- creation of false companies or "long firms"
- false insurance claims
- bankruptcy fraud, is a US federal crime that can lead to criminal prosecution under the charge of theft of the goods or services
- investment frauds, such as Ponzi schemes
- securities frauds such as pump and dump
- taking payment for goods sold online, by mail or phone, such as tickets, with no intention of delivering them.
Fraud, in addition to being a criminal act, is also a type of civil law violation known as a tort. A tort is a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy. A civil fraud typically involves the act of intentionally making a false representation of a material fact, with the intent to deceive, which is reasonably relied upon by another person to that person's detriment. A "false representation" can take many forms, such as:
- A false statement of fact, known to be false at the time it was made;
- A statement of fact with no reasonable basis to make that statement;
- A promise of future performance made with an intent, at the time the promise was made, not to perform as promised;
- A statement of opinion based on a false statement of fact;
- A statement of opinion that the maker knows to be false; or
- An expression of opinion that is false, made by one claiming or implying to have special knowledge of the subject matter of the opinion. "Special knowledge" in this case means knowledge or information superior to that possessed by the other party, and to which the other party did not have equal access.
In the UK a report concluded that the total costs of fraud and dealing with fraud in the year 2005-2006 was at least 13.9 Billion GBP.
- Frank Abagnale Jr., US impostor who wrote bad checks and falsely represented himself as a qualified member of professions such as airline pilot, doctor, and attorney. The film Catch Me If You Can is based on his life.
- Ramón Báez Figueroa, banker from the Dominican Republic and former president of Banco Intercontinental. Sentenced on October 21, 2007 to ten years in prison for a US$2.2 billion fraud case that drove the Caribbean nation into an economic crisis in 2003.
- Cassie Chadwick, who pretended to be Andrew Carnegie's daughter to get loans.
- Charles Dawson, an amateur British archeologist who claimed to have found the Piltdown man.
- Richard Eaton, an English businessman who was business partners with mobster Paul Vario and Jimmy Burke and was involved in the Lufthansa heist.
- Martin Frankel is a former U.S. financier, convicted in 2002 of insurance fraud worth $208 million, racketeering and money laundering.
- Konrad Kujau, German fraudster and forger responsible for the "Hitler Diaries".
- Kenneth Lay, the American businessman who built energy company Enron. He was one of the highest paid CEOs in America until he was ousted as Chairman and was convicted of fraud and conspiracy, although as a result of his death, his conviction was vacated.
- Nick Leeson, English trader whose unsupervised speculative trading caused the collapse of Barings Bank.
- James Paul Lewis, Jr., ran one of the biggest ($311 million) and longest running Ponzi Schemes (20 years) in US history.
- Gregor MacGregor, Scottish conman who tried to attract investment and settlers for the non-existent country of Poyais.
- Colleen McCabe, British headmistress who stole £½ million from her school.
- Gaston Means, a professional conman during U.S. President Warren G. Harding's administration.
- Michael Milken, "The Junk Bond King".
- Barry Minkow and the ZZZZ Best scam.
- Lou Pearlman, former boy-band manager indicted by a federal grand jury in Orlando on charges that he schemed to bilk banks out of more than $100 million.
- Frederick Emerson Peters, US impersonator who wrote bad checks.
- Charles Ponzi and the Ponzi scheme.
- Alves Reis, who forged documents to print 100,000,000 PTE in official escudo banknotes (adjusted for inflation, it would be worth about US$150 million today).
- Christopher Rocancourt, a Rockefeller impersonator who defrauded Hollywood celebrities.
- John Spano, a struggling businessman who faked massive success in an attempt to buy out the New York Islanders of the NHL.
- John Stonehouse, the last Postmaster-General of the UK and MP who faked his death.
- Richard Whitney, who stole from the New York Stock Exchange Gratuity Fund in the 1930s.
- Fred Cohen. Frauds, Spies, and Lies - and How to Defeat Them. ISBN 1-878109-36-7 (2006). ASP Press.
- Podgor, Ellen S. Criminal Fraud, (1999) Vol, 48, No. 4 American Law Review 1 Review Fraud - Alex Copola
- The Nature, Extent and Economic Impact of Fraud in the UK. "Feb,2007", http://www.acpo.police.uk/asp/policies/Data/Fraud%20in%20the%20UK.pdf).