Criminal fraud involves a scheme to cheat or deceive another person or entity, in order to obtain a financial or similar type of gain. It is generally considered to be a white collar crime. According to criminal fraud law, any action that is intended to deceive another through false representation of fact, resulting in legal detriment to the person who relied on the information, can be considered an act of criminal fraud.
Put simply, 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, fraud has occurred. What this means is that fraud does not occur when a person provides a fact that they believe to be true, even when they are mistaken.
Some of the most common examples of fraud include:
- Mail fraud;
- Romance scam fraud;
- Identity theft;
- Gambling fraud;
- Bankruptcy fraud;
- Wire fraud;
- Pharmacy fraud;
- Securities fraud;
- Check fraud;
- Charity fraud;
- Insurance fraud;
- Welfare Fraud;
- Credit and/or debit card fraud;
- Perjury; and
- Pigeon drop scams.
The defining component of all types of fraud is that criminal fraud occurs when:
- A person lies or conceals a material truth; and
- Another party or entity justifiably relies on that false information when making a decision; and
- That party suffers an injury based on their reliance on false information.
In order for a person to be convicted of criminal fraud, the prosecution must prove:
- That there was a misrepresentation of a material fact;
- By a person who knew the material fact was false;
- And intended to defraud;
- A person or entity who justifiably relied on the misrepresentation of fact; and
- That the individual or entity suffered actual injury or 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 the same. However, a criminal fraud conviction can result in fines and/or jail time. Additionally, criminal law has a higher standard of proof, which is beyond a reasonable doubt. Each element of the crime must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt in order for a defendant to be convicted of criminal fraud.
In criminal fraud cases, whether the fraud was actually successful is generally not a factor; the simple fact that a person attempted and intended to commit fraud is sufficient. Depending on the jurisdiction and the facts of the case, criminal fraud may be charged as either a misdemeanor or a felony crime.
In civil fraud cases, the victim must prove the fraud elements discussed above, and prove that they suffered damages as a result of the fraud. The difference between a civil and criminal fraud case is that in a civil case, the plaintiff must show actual damages; in a criminal case, the prosecution only must show that the defendant attempted fraud.
What Is Credit Card Theft?
Credit card theft occurs when a person steals another person’s credit card or credit card information, and attempts to use their credit without authorization to do so. Credit card theft costs businesses and consumers considerably large amounts of money each year, and is generally categorized with white collar crimes in state criminal statutes.
Credit card theft is unique in that the actual, physical card does not need to be stolen in order to accomplish the crime. Rather, the thief obtains information such as:
- The credit card account number;
- The person’s password; and
- Their personal information such as address, date of birth, social security number, etc.
This can be accomplished through a number of means associated with identity theft crimes, such as:
- Hacking into someone’s computer or online accounts in order to retrieve information;
- Perpetrating scams or fraud schemes, the goal being obtaining the victim’s information;
- Theft of other physical items that contain the person’s data, such as their wallet; and
- Capitalizing on the victim’s stress or worries associated with their credit card debt.
Stealing a person’s physical credit card is generally useless, unless the thief also obtains the associated personal information as well. This is why it is important that a person protects their personal and confidential information carefully, in addition to keeping their cards in a safe place. By being aware of how credit card thieves operate, it is possible to reduce the risk of such thefts from happening.
As a type of criminal fraud, credit card theft can be either a misdemeanor or a felony, for more serious theft cases. The crime is punishable by a jail or prison sentence, depending on how much was stolen. Additionally, the defendant may be required to pay criminal restitution in order to reimburse the victim for losses caused by the theft.
What Are Skimming Crimes?
Skimming crimes are a specific type of credit card theft crime, which occurs when the victim uses their credit card on a swiping device. Here, the theft happens when the scanning or swiping device is altered in order to reroute the credit card information to another computer or device, which is controlled by the thief. The thief may then use the information in order to access the person’s credit.
In some cases, the skimming can be accomplished through a device that is attached to the scanner and records the information. Alternatively, an employee may simply swipe the card onto their own personal scanner that is hidden. Additionally, skimming can involve debit card theft.
If you notice anything suspicious about a credit card purchase, it could be an indication that there is skimming going on. You should be aware of:
- Any alterations or modifications to a credit card scanner machine, such as extra plastic or material where the machine reads the card’s magnetic strip;
- Whether the machine keeps delaying or pausing during the transaction; and
- Whether the machine asks you to repeat the swiping process multiple times.
If an employee is handling your card, you should be suspicious if the employee takes the card out of your sight for prolonged periods of time; or, if they swipe the card in more than one machine. Remember that employees are not allowed to retain your card permanently, and they cannot set it aside or destroy it. Because skimming can sometimes result in identity theft, do not disclose any information if you are unsure of the situation.
How Do I Report A Skimming Crime?
If you are a victim of criminal fraud, contact your local law enforcement and report the fraud. If sufficient evidence exists, the case will be forwarded to the local prosecutor or District Attorney’s office for prosecution of the person who committed the fraud.
It is imperative to keep records of any and all losses resulting from the fraud, especially when restitution is a potential penalty. It is also important to consult with an attorney in order to determine if you will be able to pursue a civil fraud case, as well as the criminal fraud case.
Skimming crimes should be reported to authorities as soon as they are discovered. You should alert the police if you feel that an institution or a business has been skimming credit cards, as well as contact a local business bureau for more investigation or advice.
Additionally, you should report any incidents to your bank as soon as you discover any skimming activity. To reiterate, it may be necessary to speak with a lawyer, as skimming crimes can result in both criminal consequences as well as civil damages for losses caused by the theft.
Do I Need A Lawyer For Help With Skimming Crimes?
You should hire a fraud lawyer in your area if you have any concerns or issues involving skimming of credit or debit cards. Your attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options according to your state’s specific laws, and will also be able to represent you in court, as needed.