Criminal fraud is a crime that involves a scheme to cheat or deceive another person or entity, in order to obtain a financial or similar type of gain. Criminal fraud is considered to be a white collar crime. According to criminal fraud law, any action taken by a person or company that is intended to deceive another through false representation of fact, which results in legal detriment to the person or entity who relied on the information, can be considered an act of criminal fraud.
In simple terms, if a person knowingly lies about an important or key fact in a transaction or relationship, and the other party relies on that misrepresentation of fact and suffers harm, criminal fraud will be considered to have occurred. However, criminal fraud does not occur when a person provides a fact that they believe to be true, even if they are mistaken as to the fact.
The basic component of all types of fraud is that criminal fraud occurs when:
- A person lies or conceals a material truth;
- Another party or entity justifiably relies on that false information to make a decision; and
- That party suffers an injury, typically financial in nature, based on their reliance on false information.
There are several legal elements of criminal fraud. In order for a person to be found guilty and convicted of criminal fraud, the prosecution must prove all of the following:
- First, that there was a misrepresentation of a material fact;
- Second, the misrepresentation was made by a person who knew that the material fact was false;
- The intent of the misrepresentation was to defraud;
- A person or entity justifiably relied on the misrepresentation of fact in order to make a decision; and
- The person or entity that relied on the misrepresentation of fact suffered an actual injury or financial damages as a result of their reliance on that false fact.
The basic elements of fraud in both civil fraud cases and criminal fraud cases are essentially the same. A criminal fraud conviction, however, can result in criminal fines and/or jail time. Additionally, criminal law has a higher standard of proof, which is known as beyond a reasonable doubt. As such, each element of the criminal fraud discussed above must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a defendant to be convicted of the crime.
Further, in criminal fraud cases, whether or not the fraud was actually successful is not a determining factor. Instead, the simple fact that a person attempted and intended to commit fraud is enough to convict. Additionally, depending on the jurisdiction as well as the facts of the case, criminal fraud may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony crime.
In civil fraud cases, the fraud victim must prove the legal elements discussed above, and prove that they suffered damages as a result of the fraud. As such, the defining difference between a civil and criminal fraud case would be that in a civil case, the person must show actual damages. However, in a criminal fraud case, the prosecution only needs to show that the defendant attempted fraud. It is important to note that typically a plaintiff (i.e. the party that was harmed) in a civil case must prove quantifiable damages, i.e. actual damages that are financial in nature.
What Is a Federal or Postal Job Scam?
A federal or postal job scam is a criminal fraud scam concerning job or employment opportunities with the U.S. government or the Postal Service. Federal or postal job scams are fairly common. As such, if you have been presented with an opportunity to get information regarding an available federal or postal employment opportunity in exchange for a fee, you may have been a victim of a federal job scam.
How Can an Individual Recognize a Scam?
As mentioned above, one of the key factors in recognizing a scam is that you will be asked to pay a fee for an opportunity. You should never have to pay for information on job and employment opportunities with the U.S. government or the United States Postal Service. A federal or postal job scam typically appears in a classified advertisement or via a phishing scam initiated via email.
These classified ads present themselves as attempts to help those looking for a job to find and apply for federal jobs available in the targeted person’s area. An individual should also look out for “official-sounding” company names (i.e. “Postal Employment Service”) that may try to link the targeted person to a fraudulent company. As such, it is important to check the source of the email, such as by hovering over the sender to see their actual email address, and to do the same with hyperlinks that may be present in the scam email. Further, you may also contact the purported job provider directly to verify the authenticity of the email or communication.
It is important to note that the United States Postal Service does not usually have many opportunities for career positions. Additionally, many entry-level jobs require a written examination to be taken. There are 85 local Postal Service district offices where hiring for the postal service typically takes place. Once again, if you believe that you are being scammed with regard to an available postal service job, you should check with the office directly. Finally, never pay a fee for such information.
What Are Examples of Common Federal Job Scams?
Examples of typical federal and postal job scams include:
- Advertisements That Refer the User to a Toll-Free Number: Any advertisements where an individual is required to buy a pamphlet that contains job listings and help for any written exams via a toll-free number is likely a scam;
- Advertisements Offering Information about Unadvertised Federal Jobs: Any advertisement that offers assistance in finding unadvertised federal jobs for a fee is likely a scam;
- Advertisements Implying Certain Guarantees: Any advertisement that promises or guarantees employment with the federal government, or includes statements such as “no experiences is necessary” is likely a scam;
- Toll-Free Telephone Numbers Redirecting to Pay-Per-Call Numbers: Once again, any instance of a fee being asked for or a fee being collected through a pay-per-call number is likely a scam.
- It is important to note that disclosures about cost must be contained in any solicitations for pay-per-call numbers.
- Additionally, any solicitations must state whether or not they are affiliated in any way with the federal government. Further, before sustaining any charges, you must be given a chance to hang up.
If you feel you have been victimized by such a federal job scam, you should contact the Federal Trade Commission (“FTC”) or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. You may also wish to contact your state’s attorney general or the local Better Business Bureau in order to report the scam. Once again, you should never pay for the promise of a job opportunity.
What Are Legal Penalties for an Individual or Company Violating FTC Rules?
In general, there are two types of monetary remedies that are available under the FTC:
- Civil Penalties: A civil penalty is a statutory amount required to be paid by a defendant for violating an FTC rule or order.
- It is important to note that the FTC does not have statutory authority to assess fines or seek civil penalties for an initial violation of the FTC Act.
- However, the FTC can seek civil penalties if a defendant violates a previous FTC order, and for violations of specific FTC statutes; and/or
- Consumer Redress: In some cases, the FTC may seek an order requiring that defendants turn over money they obtained illegally so that it can be used to compensate the plaintiff for the harm caused by the defendants’ fraudulent acts.
Do I Need a Lawyer For Help With Federal Job Scams?
If you have fallen victim to a federal job scam or believe that an advertisement you received is a scam, consulting with an experienced fraud lawyer is essential. An experienced fraud lawyer will be able to help you recognize a federal or Postal job scam, and help guide you through reporting the fraud. Additionally, if you have suffered financial harm, an attorney can initiate a private lawsuit against the party that defrauded you.