Fraud is an intentional deception designed to provide the perpetrator with an unlawful benefit or to deny a right to the victim. There are many different types of fraud, including mail fraud, driver's license fraud, health care fraud, debit and credit card fraud, bank account appropriation fraud, fraud involving stolen tax refunds, voter fraud, and Internet fraud. Fraudulent activity can be carried out by one person, several people, or a commercial company as a whole. One example of fraud is the Nigerian scam.
This type of fraud combines identity theft and prepayment fraud. Scammers posing as government officials contact victims to ask them for help to transfer millions of dollars out of Nigeria in exchange for a percentage of the funds. They convince victims to provide their bank name and account numbers and other identifying information and to send checks to pay bribes or legal fees. Perpetrators can also use the personal information received to empty the accounts and credit cards of victims. The Nigerian government does not understand the victims who, by participating in this plan, are committing both Nigeria and the United States.
Read more about this and other common fraud schemes on the Federal Bureau of Investigation website. Pennsylvania does not have a specific criminal fraud charge, but state law establishes numerous crimes that fall under the category of “fraudulent practices”. Each crime has its own elements and possible penalties, which may vary depending on the amount of money involved in the alleged fraud. The following are just a few examples of criminal fraud: health care fraud, mortgage fraud, postal and electronic fraud, debit card PIN theft, romance scams, lottery and sweepstakes scams, stock fraud, and trust schemes. Health care fraud can involve receiving bribes, false invoices, selling prescription drugs on the black market, and much more. Mortgage fraud schemes for investors include different types of property exchange, occupancy fraud, and false buyer scams.
Postal and electronic fraud is generally charged under federal law and can have serious consequences. Debit card PIN theft is another type of scam where a fraudster has to check your debit card PIN and access your physical card (or flip through the numbers and create a duplicate). However, once you send them the rest, your back will warn you of the fraud and will withdraw the full amount of the check from your account. Romance scams involve scammers posing as potential romantic partners in order to gain access to victims' financial information. Lottery and sweepstakes scams involve scammers claiming that victims have won a large sum of money but must pay taxes or fees in order to receive it. Stock fraud is also commonly referred to as investment fraud. In the end, the person or company that commits fraud takes advantage of the asymmetry of information; specifically, that the cost of the resources involved in reviewing and verifying that information may be significant enough to discourage total investment in fraud prevention. Both states and the federal government have laws that criminalize fraud, although fraudulent actions may not always result in criminal prosecution.
Fraud cases usually involve a large amount of research and testing, and it is critical that you have a defense lawyer on your side who understands Pennsylvania criminal laws. Visit the Office on White Collar Crime and Cyber Crime web pages for information on more fraud schemes.