Fraud is a criminal act involving the use of a lie, a false position or the prejudice of another person’s rights, in order to derive a personal benefit. Fraud is perhaps wrongly viewed as a crime involving large sums of money, committed in the financial sector. Whilst this view encompasses part of the definition of fraud, other frauds can be as simple as lying to obtain a state benefit, or wrongly using a blue disabled-parking badge.
The criminal offence of fraud includes deceiving another person by telling a lie, or making a false representation, failing to disclose important information, or abusing a position you hold. In addition to using fraud for personal gain, fraud can also be conducted in order to cause loss to another.
Fraud also encompasses a wide range of cons, tricks and scams, and covers email and internet fraud, direct telephone fraud, fraud carried out via social networking and sometimes even fraud conducted through internet chat rooms.
Different types of fraud
There are many different types of fraud. Individual fraud can encompass an abuse of trust, or could involve an ‘advance fee’ fraud where you are asked to pay upfront for a service or product you never receive. Other individual frauds include bogus doorstep selling, and frauds involving investments or property scams.
At a different level to individual frauds, are those involving corporations. Corporate fraud is perhaps more recognizable as fraud than other forms, and includes frauds relating to expenses claims, mortgage fraud, insurance frauds, and frauds involving credit cards or cheques.
Increasingly fraud is being committed online. Examples of online fraud include bogus service delivery companies, who are able to cheaply create a credible front for their scam with a convincing website, taking payments for services and products that are never delivered. A major problem with online scams is the perpetrators of the fraud are often hard to trace.
Benefit fraud is a subset of fraud involving the false obtainment of benefits such as sick pay or unemployment benefit. Another popular type of benefit fraud is that involving incapacity benefit, where someone falsely claims to be unable to work through ill health in order to claim benefit.
Benefit fraud is increasingly being targeted by the Government, with a hefty array of punishments and fines available for benefit cheats. Examples of punishments if caught for benefit fraud include being made to pay benefits back, facing a criminal prosecution, a fine, a criminal record, and even a prison sentence.
Victims of fraud
If you have been a victim of a fraud or scam it is important that you report the incident in order that it be investigated. This is vital to ensure the perpetrators are stopped and that others do not become victims.
Fraud is a crime, so it is often appropriate to report a fraud to the police, although in other circumstances it may be appropriate to notify the Department of Work and Pensions (benefit fraud), or Action Fraud, who offer an online fraud reporting tool.