Fraud is a general term used to describe an act of deception that is intended to result in personal gain, or to cause a loss to another person or organisation.
There are a number of different types of fraud, which attract varying penalties, including up to 10 years imprisonment, and hefty fines that can run into the tens of thousands.
The severity of the sentence for a guilty finding in a fraud case can depend on a number of factors, including the value of the funds or property involved in the fraud, the length of time the fraud continued, and the sophistication of the fraud.
Fraud can involve a single individual, or high-level organised crime. According to the Australian Crime Commission, organised crime groups are increasingly involved in fraud, particularly identity fraud.
Other types of fraud that pose a concern for authorities include tax fraud, welfare fraud and insurance fraud.
Here is a brief guide to some of the most common criminal fraud definitions and offences.
This is when people or organisations make insurance claims that they are not entitled to in order to obtain a financial benefit.
Centrelink, or welfare fraud, is a Commonwealth offence that comes with hefty penalties if the amount that is defrauded is significant.
Claiming benefits an individual is not entitled to, or claiming benefits in a false name, are two examples of this type of offence.
Cybercrime is becoming increasingly common, and is often undertaken on a large-scale basis. Cyber fraud means accessing restricted information on a computer and using it for personal gain, or to deprive someone of money or property.
Cyber fraud, including identity theft, can be big business, and it is an offence that many law enforcement agencies are targeting intensively.
There are a number of examples of this type of fraud, including defrauding individuals of their superannuation funds, misappropriating assets, charging exorbitant fees, taking funds and vanishing, or accessing super funds earlier than legally allowed.
Defrauding the Australian Tax Office, either by claiming false deductions or giving false figures in order to claim a refund, is a common type of fraud, and one that comes with potentially high penalties.
Tax fraud falls into the category of offences against the Commonwealth, and it is an offence that is usually dealt with in one of the higher courts.
Setting up fraudulent investment schemes and disappearing is a type of investment fraud. Investment fraud often targets members of the public, with wide-scale campaigns.
Once enough people sign up and pay their money, the offender then disappears along with the money.
What should you do if you are accused of fraud?
It is important to take an accusation of fraud seriously, as the penalties can be significant.
If you have been charged with a fraud offence, make sure you speak to a criminal lawyer with experience in successfully defending fraud cases similar to yours.
You can only be found guilty of fraud if the prosecution can prove you knowingly and intentionally acted to deceive for your own gain.
Your criminal lawyer can help decide your best defence, help you understand what your most likely penalty will be, and advise how you may be able to get a more lenient penalty if you are found guilty.