The victims of financial fraud are known to suffer financial and emotional harm; they can even experience medical problems, such as anxiety, panic attacks, high blood pressure, and depression because of their victimization. These victims do not suffer alone. Each year, millions of people throughout the United States are victims of fraud, according to the United States Attorney’s Office.
Victims of fraudulent crimes are left feeling personally violated. It’s much different than having one’s $50,000 car stolen and replaced by their auto insurance carrier. It’s not the same as having one’s home broken into and having their laptops and jewelry stolen. It’s much more personal than that, especially when the fraud involves identity theft, ruining a victim’s credit, stealing a victim’s tax refund, or robbing a victim of their entire life savings through sophisticated investment scams.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office had this message for fraud victims: “Fraud crime is a personal violation. Your trust in your own judgement, and your trust in others, is often shattered.” In light of the above, victims of fraud typically experience the following:
- They question their own judgement.
- They have trouble trusting people, even those close to them.
- They feel vulnerable and taken advantage of.
- They lose faith in identity protection.
- They are embarrassed to tell others about their victimization.
- They are afraid of credit cards, online banking, and paying bills online.
Why is financial fraud so bad? Fraud crimes can destroy people’s financial security. If the victim is disabled or elderly, or if they are unemployed and living on a fixed income, they may not have the means or capability of recovering their losses.
Some victims are stripped of their financial security and their quality of life is ruined. If they are past retirement age, they may have to depend on others or the state for support and this can be traumatic in itself, especially when their life savings is wiped out by a fraudulent scheme.
Defining Fraudulent Crimes
What is fraud exactly? Fraud is where an individual or business deceives a victim by promising products or services or another financial benefit that is never provided or does not exist. “Typically, victims give money but never receive what they paid for,” according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
“Who are the fraud victims?” Anyone can be a victim of fraud. Con artists can go after anyone; they can target men, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, the educated and the uneducated – even people who have passed away! In fact, those who commit fraud will often target specific groups based on their credit score, their age, their geographic location, their income, or if they’re collecting Social Security retirement benefits.
The people who commit fraudulent crimes are as diverse as their victims. The perpetrators can work for mortgage companies and investment firms. They can be college educated, white collar criminals and they can be high school dropouts. However, many con artists are career criminals with a long track record of criminal behavior. Often, they’re seduced by the idea of making a “quick buck” through fraudulent schemes, especially when the return is so much higher than a 9 to 5 job.
Common types of fraud include, but are not limited to:
- Identity theft
- Accounting fraud
- Bankruptcy fraud
- Insurance fraud
- Healthcare fraud
- Telemarketing fraud
- Mortgage fraud
- Immigration fraud
- Fraud involving investments, securities, and commodities
Fraud crimes are criminalized under state and federal law, so they can be prosecuted in state or federal court depending on the facts of the case, such as the state or federal laws violated, the amount of money stolen, and the type of fraud scam. The location of the crime and the use of the U.S. Postal Service, Medicare or the internet can also affect whether a case is prosecuted on the state or federal level.
If you’re facing state or federal fraud charges in Tampa or Hillsborough County, contact Thomas & Paulk, P.A. for a free consultation.