In law, fraud is deliberate deception to secure unfair or unlawful
gain, or to deprive a victim of a legal right.
Fraud itself can be a
civil wrong (i.e., a fraud victim may sue the fraud perpetrator to
avoid the fraud or recover monetary compensation), a criminal wrong
(i.e., a fraud perpetrator may be prosecuted and imprisoned by
governmental authorities) or it may cause no loss of money, property
or legal right but still be an element of another civil or criminal
wrong. The purpose of fraud may be monetary gain or other benefits,
such as obtaining a passport or travel document, driver's license or
qualifying for a mortgage by way of false statements.
A hoax is a distinct concept that involves deliberate deception
without the intention of gain or of materially damaging or depriving a
1 As a civil wrong
2 As a criminal offence
3 By region
3.3 United Kingdom
3.3.1 England, Wales, and Northern Ireland
Cifas – the UK's leading fraud prevention service
3.4 United States
3.4.1 Criminal fraud
3.4.2 Civil fraud
5 Types of fraudulent acts
6 Anti-fraud movements
8 Notable fraudsters
10 See also
12 Further reading
13 External links
As a civil wrong
In common law jurisdictions, as a civil wrong, fraud is a tort. While
the precise definitions and requirements of proof vary among
jurisdictions, the requisite elements of fraud as a tort generally are
the intentional misrepresentation or concealment of an important fact
upon which the victim is meant to rely, and in fact does rely, to the
harm of the victim. Proving fraud in a court of law is often said
to be difficult. That difficulty is found, for
instance, in that each and every one of the elements of fraud must be
proven, that the elements include proving the states of mind of the
perpetrator and the victim, and that some jurisdictions require the
victim to prove fraud by clear and convincing evidence.[citation
The remedies for fraud may include rescission (i.e., reversal) of a
fraudulently obtained agreement or transaction, the recovery of a
monetary award to compensate for the harm caused, punitive damages to
punish or deter the misconduct, and possibly others.
In cases of a fraudulently induced contract, fraud may serve as a
defense in a civil action for breach of contract or specific
performance of contract.
Fraud may serve as a basis for a court to invoke its equitable
As a criminal offence
In common law jurisdictions, as a criminal offence, fraud takes many
different forms, some general (e.g., theft by false pretense) and some
specific to particular categories of victims or misconduct (e.g., bank
fraud, insurance fraud, forgery). The elements of fraud as a crime
similarly vary. The requisite elements of perhaps most general form of
criminal fraud, theft by false pretense, are the intentional deception
of a victim by false representation or pretense with the intent of
persuading the victim to part with property and with the victim
parting with property in reliance on the representation or pretense
and with the perpetrator intending to keep the property from the
Section 380(1) of the Criminal Code provides the general definition
for fraud in Canada:
380. (1) Every one who, by deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent
means, whether or not it is a false pretence within the meaning of
this Act, defrauds the public or any person, whether ascertained or
not, of any property, money or valuable security or any service,
(a) is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to a term of
imprisonment not exceeding fourteen years, where the subject-matter of
the offence is a testamentary instrument or the value of the
subject-matter of the offence exceeds five thousand dollars; or
(b) is guilty
(i) of an indictable offence and is liable to imprisonment for a term
not exceeding two years, or
(ii) of an offence punishable on summary conviction, where the value
of the subject-matter of the offence does not exceed five thousand
In addition to the penalties outlined above, the court can also issue
a prohibition order under s. 380.2 (preventing a person from "seeking,
obtaining or continuing any employment, or becoming or being a
volunteer in any capacity, that involves having authority over the
real property, money or valuable security of another person"). It can
also make a restitution order under s. 380.3.
The Canadian courts have held that the offence consists of two
A prohibited act of deceit, falsehood or other fraudulent means. In
the absence of deceit or falsehood, the courts will look objectively
for a "dishonest act"; and
The deprivation must be caused by the prohibited act, and deprivation
must relate to property, money, valuable security, or any service.
Supreme Court of Canada
Supreme Court of Canada has held that deprivation is satisfied on
proof of detriment, prejudice or risk of prejudice; it is not
essential that there be actual loss. Deprivation of confidential
information, in the nature of a trade secret or copyrighted material
that has commercial value, has also been held to fall within the scope
of the offence.
Zhang Yingyu's story collection The Book of Swindles (ca. 1617)
testifies to rampant commercial fraud, especially involving itinerant
businessmen, in late Ming China. The journal Science reported in
2017 that fraud is rife in Chinese academia, resulting in numerous
article retractions and harm to China's international prestige.
The Economist, CNN, and other media outlets regularly report on
incidents of fraud or bad faith in Chinese business and trade
practices. Forbes cites cybercrime as a persistent and
growing threat to Chinese consumers.
England, Wales, and Northern Ireland
"Half of all UK companies say that they have been the victim of fraud
or of economic crime in the last two years [2016-2018], according to a
major survey conducted by professional services firm PwC." 
BBC News Online
BBC News Online reported in 2016 that the estimated value lost through
fraud in the UK was £193 billion a year.
In January 2018 the
Financial Times reported that the value of UK
fraud hit a 15-year high of £2.11bn in 2017 according to a study. The
article said that the accountancy firm BDO examined reported fraud
cases worth more than £50,000 and found that the total number rose to
577 in 2017, compared with 212 in 2003. The study found that the
average amount stolen in each incident rose to £3.66m, up from £1.5m
in 2003. 
As at November 2017
Fraud is the most common criminal offence in the
UK according to a study by Crowe Clark Whitehill, Experian and the
Centre for Counter
Fraud Studies.  The study suggests the UK loses
over £190 billion per year to fraud. £190 billion is more than 9% of
the UK’s projected GDP for 2017 ($2,496 (£2,080) billion according
to Statistics Times). The estimate for fraud in the UK figure is more
than the entire GDP of countries such as Romania, Qatar and Hungary.
According to another review by the UK anti-fraud charity Fraud
Advisory Panel (FAP), business fraud accounted for £144bn, while
fraud against individuals was estimated at £9.7bn. The FAP has been
particularly critical of the support available from the police to
victims of fraud in the UK outside of London. Although victims of
fraud are generally referred to the UK's national fraud and cyber
crime reporting centre, Action Fraud, the FAP found that there was
"little chance" that these crime reports would be followed up with any
kind of substantive law enforcement action by UK authorities,
according to the report.
In July 2016 it was reported that fraudulent activity levels in the UK
increased in the 10 years to 2016 from £52 billion to £193bn. This
figure would be a conservative estimate, since as the former
commissioner of the City of London Police, Adrian Leppard, has said,
only 1 in 12 such crimes are actually reported. Donald Toon,
director of the NCA's economic crime command, stated in July 2016:
"The annual losses to the UK from fraud are estimated to be more than
£190bn". Figures released in October 2015 from the
Crime Survey of
England and Wales
England and Wales found that there had been 5.1 million incidents of
England and Wales
England and Wales in the previous year, affecting an
estimated one in 12 adults and making it the most common form of
Also in July 2016, the
Office for National Statistics
Office for National Statistics (ONS) stated
"Almost six million fraud and cyber crimes were committed last year in
England and Wales
England and Wales and estimated there were two million computer misuse
offences and 3.8 million fraud offences in the 12 months to the end of
Fraud affects one in ten people in the UK. According to
the ONS most frauds relate to bank account fraud. These figures are
separate from the headline estimate that another 6.3 million crimes
(distinct from frauds) were perpetrated in the UK against adults in
the year to March 2016.
Fraud is apparently low on the list UK law enforcement priorities.
Controversially, the crime does not feature on a new "
Index" published by the Office for National Statistics. Michael Levi,
professor of criminology at Cardiff University, remarked in August
2016 that it was ‘deeply regrettable’ fraud is being left out of
the first index despite being the most common crime reported to police
in the UK. Professor Levi said ‘If you’ve got some categories that
are excluded, they are automatically left out of the police’s
priorities.’. The Chief of the National Audit Office (NAO), Sir
Anyas Morse has also said “For too long, as a low-value but
high-volume crime, online fraud has been overlooked by government, law
enforcement and industry. It is now the most commonly experienced
England and Wales
England and Wales and demands an urgent response.”
Fraud Act 2006
Fraud Act 2006
Fraud Act 2006 (c 35) is an Act of the Parliament of the United
Kingdom. It affects
England and Wales
England and Wales and Northern Ireland. It was
Royal Assent on 8 November 2006, and came into effect on 15
The Act gives a statutory definition of the criminal offence of fraud,
defining it in three classes—fraud by false representation, fraud by
failing to disclose information, and fraud by abuse of position. It
provides that a person found guilty of fraud is liable to a fine or
imprisonment for up to twelve months on summary conviction (six months
in Northern Ireland), or a fine or imprisonment for up to ten years on
conviction on indictment. This Act largely replaces the laws relating
to obtaining property by deception, obtaining a pecuniary advantage
and other offences that were created under the
Theft Act 1978.
Serious Fraud Office (United Kingdom)
Serious Fraud Office (United Kingdom) is an arm of the Government
of the United Kingdom, accountable to the Attorney-General.
National Fraud Authority
National Fraud Authority (NFA) is the government agency
co-ordinating the counter-fraud response in the UK.
Cifas – the UK's leading fraud prevention service
Main article: Cifas
Cifas is the UK's leading fraud prevention service, a not-for-profit
membership organisation for all sectors that enables organisations to
share and access fraud data using their databases.
Cifas is dedicated
to the prevention of fraud, including internal fraud by staff, and the
identification of financial and related crime.
Cifas study found that the number of reported cases of identity
fraud jumped by 57 per cent between 2014 and 2015. Drawing from its
reporting database of 261 organisations,
Cifas found that 148,463
people reported having their identity stolen in 2015, up from 94,492
the previous year. The rise of social media has been blamed.
warned that social media sites such as Facebook,
Twitter and LinkedIn
are becoming a “hunting ground” for fraudsters.
In July 2016 the BBC referred to a recently published
which estimated the annual cost of fraud in the UK was £193bn –
equal to nearly £3,000 per head of population.
In March 2017,
Cifas reported that identity fraud had reached "record
levels", with 173,000 cases recorded to its fraud database in 2016 –
the highest number ever recorded by members of Cifas. That trend
continued through 2017, with
Cifas reporting more than 89,000 cases of
identity fraud in the first six months of the year.
Cifas data from 2016 and 2017 also highlighted the growing issue of
'money mules' – people who allow their bank accounts to be used to
Cifas reported that the number of young people
(18-24-year-olds) allowing their accounts to be used to transfer the
proceeds of crime had risen by an unprecedented 75 per cent in the
The proof requirements for criminal fraud charges in the United States
are essentially the same as the requirements for other crimes: guilt
must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt. Throughout the United States
fraud charges can be misdemeanors or felonies depending on the amount
of loss involved. High value frauds can also include additional
penalties. For example, in California losses of $500,000 or more will
result in an extra two, three, or five years in prison in addition to
the regular penalty for the fraud.
The U.S. government's 2006 fraud review concluded that fraud is a
significantly under-reported crime, and while various agencies and
organizations were attempting to tackle the issue, greater
co-operation was needed to achieve a real impact in the public
sector. The scale of the problem pointed to the need for a small
but high-powered body to bring together the numerous counter-fraud
initiatives that existed.
According to Bloomberg, auto loan application fraud rates in the
United States has been steadily rising over the past few years. This
type of fraud expected to double from about $2-3 billion in 2015 to
$4-6 billion in 2017.
Although elements may vary by jurisdiction and the specific
allegations made by a plaintiff who files a lawsuit that alleged
fraud, typical elements of a fraud case in the United States are
Somebody misrepresents a material fact in order to obtain action or
forbearance by another person;
The other person relies upon the misrepresentation; and
The other person suffers injury as a result of the act or forbearance
taken in reliance upon the misrepresentation.
To establish a civil claim of fraud, most jurisdictions in the United
States require that each element of a fraud claim be plead with
particularity and be proved by a preponderance of the evidence,
meaning that it is more likely than not that the fraud occurred. Some
jurisdictions impose a higher evidentiary standard, such as Washington
State's requirement that the elements of fraud be proved with clear,
cogent, and convincing evidence (very probable evidence), or
Pennsylvania's requirement that common law fraud be proved by clear
and convincing evidence.
The measure of damages in fraud cases is normally computed using one
of two rules:
The "benefit of bargain" rule, which allows for recovery of damages in
the amount of the difference between the value of the property had it
been as represented and its actual value;
Out-of-pocket loss, which allows for the recovery of damages in the
amount of the difference between the value of what was given and the
value of what was received.
Special damages may be allowed if shown to have been proximately
caused by defendant's fraud and the damage amounts are proved with
Many jurisdictions permit a plaintiff in a fraud case to seek punitive
or exemplary damages.
The typical organization loses five percent of its annual revenue to
fraud, with a median loss of $160,000. Frauds committed by owners and
executives were more than nine times as costly as employee fraud. The
industries most commonly affected are banking, manufacturing, and
Types of fraudulent acts
The highly decorated fake uniform worn by a man impersonating a
"Marine" caught by two gunnery sergeants at Times Square in New York
City, New York
A possibly fraudulent "work from home" advertisement
See also: Types of fraud
Fraud can be committed through many media, including mail, wire,
phone, and the
Internet (computer crime and
International dimensions of the web and ease with which users can hide
their location, the difficulty of checking identity and legitimacy
online, and the simplicity with which hackers can divert browsers to
dishonest sites and steal credit card details have all contributed to
the very rapid growth of
Internet fraud. In some countries, tax fraud
is also prosecuted under false billing or tax forgery. There have
also been fraudulent "discoveries", e.g., in science, to gain prestige
rather than immediate monetary gain.
Beyond laws that aim at prevention of fraud, there are also
governmental and non-governmental organizations that aim to fight
fraud. Between 1911 and 1933, 47 states adopted the so-called Blue Sky
Laws status. These laws were enacted and enforced at the state
level and regulated the offering and sale of securities to protect the
public from fraud. Though the specific provisions of these laws varied
among states, they all required the registration of all securities
offerings and sales, as well as of every U.S. stockbroker and
brokerage firm. However, these Blue Sky laws were generally found
to be ineffective. To increase public trust in the capital markets the
President of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt, established the
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). The main reason for
the creation of the SEC was to regulate the stock market and prevent
corporate abuses relating to the offering and sale of securities and
corporate reporting. The SEC was given the power to license and
regulate stock exchanges, the companies whose securities traded on
them, and the brokers and dealers who conducted the trading.
A fraudulent Manufacturer's Suggested Retail Price on a speaker
Data analysis techniques for fraud detection
For detection of fraudulent activities on the large scale, massive use
of (online) data analysis is required, in particular predictive
analytics or forensic analytics. Forensic analytics is the use of
electronic data to reconstruct or detect financial fraud. The steps in
the process are data collection, data preparation, data analysis, and
the preparation of a report and possibly a presentation of the
results. Using computer-based analytic methods Nigrini's wider goal is
the detection of fraud, errors, anomalies, inefficiencies, and biases
which refer to people gravitating to certain dollar amounts to get
past internal control thresholds.
The analytic tests usually start with high-level data overview tests
to spot highly significant irregularities. In a recent purchasing card
application these tests identified a purchasing card transaction for
3,000,000 Costa Rica Colons. This was neither a fraud nor an error,
but it was a highly unusual amount for a purchasing card transaction.
These high-level tests include tests related to Benford's
possibly also those statistics known as descriptive statistics. These
high-tests are always followed by more focused tests to look for small
samples of highly irregular transactions. The familiar methods of
correlation and time-series analysis can also be used to detect fraud
and other irregularities. Forensic analytics also includes the use of
a fraud risk-scoring model to identify high risk forensic units
(customers, employees, locations, insurance claims and so on).
Forensic analytics also includes suggested tests to identify financial
statement irregularities, but the general rule is that analytic
methods alone are not too successful at detecting financial statement
Alfredo Sáenz Abad, lied about bank loans as a banker so that some
customers to the bank went to prison; he was later sentenced to
prison, but managed to get a pardon and kept his job
Frank Abagnale Jr., American impostor who wrote bad checks and falsely
represented himself as a qualified member of professions such as
airline pilot, doctor, attorney, and teacher; the film Catch Me If You
Can is based on his life
John Bodkin Adams, British doctor and suspected serial killer, but
only found guilty of forging wills and prescriptions
Eddie Antar, founder of Crazy Eddie; has criminal convictions on 17
counts and about $1 billion worth of civil judgments against him
stemming from fraudulent accounting practices at that company
Jordan Belfort, "The Wolf of Wall Street"; swindled over $200 million
via a penny stock boiler room operation; the film "The Wolf of Wall
Leonardo DiCaprio is based on his life and fraudulent
Cassie Chadwick, pretended to be Andrew Carnegie's illegitimate
daughter to get loans
Columbia/HCA Medicare fraud; Columbia/HCA pleaded guilty to 14 felony
counts and paid out more than $2 billion to settle lawsuits arising
from the fraud The company's board of directors forced
then–Chairman and CEO
Rick Scott to resign at the beginning of the
federal investigation; Scott was subsequently elected Governor of
Florida in 2010
Edward Davenport, self-styled "Lord"; nicknamed "Fast Eddie"
and "Lord of Fraud"; from 2005 to 2009 was the "ringmaster" of a
series of advance-fee fraud schemes that defrauded dozens of
individuals out of millions of pounds; is said to have made £34.5
million through various frauds
Marc Dreier, managing founder of attorney firm Dreir LLP, a $700
million Ponzi scheme
Enric Durán, defrauded Spanish banks and then gave away the loaned
money to anti-growth organizations
Bernard Ebbers, founder of WorldCom, which inflated its asset
statements by about $11 billion
Ramón Báez Figueroa, banker from the
Dominican Republic and former
President of Banco Intercontinental; sentenced in 2007 to 10 years in
prison for a U.S. $2.2 billion fraud case that drove the Caribbean
nation into economic crisis in 2003
Martin Frankel, American former financier, convicted in 2002 of
insurance fraud worth $208 million, racketeering and money laundering
Samuel Israel III, former hedge fund manager; ran the former
fraudulent Bayou Hedge Fund Group; faked suicide to avoid jail
Konrad Kujau, German fraudster and forger responsible for the "Hitler
Kenneth Lay, American businessman who built energy company Enron; one
of the highest paid CEOs in the U.S. until he was ousted as chairman
and convicted of fraud and conspiracy, although, as a result of his
death, his conviction was vacated
Nick Leeson, English trader whose unsupervised speculative trading
caused the collapse of Barings Bank
James Paul Lewis, Jr., ran one of the biggest ($311 million) and
longest running Ponzi schemes (20 years) in U.S. history
Gregor MacGregor, Scottish con man; tried to attract investment and
settlers for the non-existent country of Poyais
Bernard Madoff, creator of a $65 billion Ponzi scheme, the largest
investor fraud ever attributed to a single individual
Matt the Knife, American con artist, card cheat and pickpocket; from
age approximately 14 through 21, bilked dozens of casinos,
corporations and at least one Mafia crime family out of untold sums
Gaston Means, professional con man during U.S. President Warren G.
Barry Minkow, ZZZZ Best scam
Michael Monus, founder of Phar-Mor, which ultimately cost its
investors more than $1 billion
F. Bam Morrison, conned the town of
Wetumka, Oklahoma by promoting a
circus that never came
Lou Pearlman, former boy-band manager and operator of a $300 million
Ponzi scheme using two shell companies
Frederick Emerson Peters, American impersonator who wrote bad checks
Thomas Petters, American masquerading as a business manwho turned out
to be a con man; former CEO and chairman of Petters Group
Worldwide; resigned his position as CEO in 2008 amid mounting
criminal investigations; later convicted for turning Petters Group
Worldwide into a $3.65 billion Ponzi scheme; sentenced to 50 years
in federal prison
Charles Ponzi, Ponzi scheme
Gert Postel, German mailman; worked as a psychiatrist in different
Alves Reis, forged documents to print 100,000,000 PTE in official
escudo banknotes (adjusted for inflation, it would be worth about
US$150 million today)
John Rigas, cable television entrepreneur, co-founder of Adelphia
Communications Corporation and owner of the
Buffalo Sabres hockey
team; defrauded investors of over $2 billion and was sentenced to a
12-year term in federal prison
Christopher Rocancourt, a Rockefeller impersonator who defrauded
Scott W. Rothstein, disbarred lawyer from Ft. Lauderdale, Florida;
Ponzi scheme which defrauded investors of over $1
Michael Sabo, best known as a check, stocks and bonds forger; became
notorious in the 1960s throughout the 1990s as a "Great Impostor" with
over 100 aliases, and earned millions from such
John Spano, struggling businessman who faked massive success in an
attempt to buy out the
New York Islanders
New York Islanders of the NHL
Allen Stanford, self-styled banker; sold fake certificates of deposit
to people in many countries, raking in $7 billion to $8 billion over
John Stonehouse, the last Postmaster-General of the UK and MP; faked
his death to marry his mistress
Kevin Trudeau, American writer and billiards promoter; convicted of
fraud and larceny in 1991; known for a series of late-night
infomercials and his series of books about "Natural Cures 'They' Don't
Want You to Know About"
Richard Whitney, stole from the
New York Stock Exchange
New York Stock Exchange Gratuity Fund
in the 1930s
Apart from fraud, there are several related categories of intentional
deceptions that may or may not include the elements of personal gain
or damage to another individual:
Obstruction of justice
18 U.S.C. § 704 which criminalizes false representation of
having been awarded any decoration or medal authorized by Congress for
the Armed Forces of the United States
Caper stories (such as The Sting)
False Claims Act
Federal Bureau of Investigation
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
Fraud in the factum
Fraud in parapsychology
Fraud Squad (UK)
Great Stock Exchange
Fraud of 1814
Guinness share-trading fraud, famous British business scandal of the
Internal Revenue Service
Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
Mail and wire fraud
The National Council Against Health Fraud
Phishing, attempt to fraudulently acquire sensitive information
Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO)
Swampland in Florida
Tobashi scheme, concealing financial losses
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
United States Postal Inspection Service
United States Secret Service
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^ "The 'Lord of Fraud' Edward Davenport is out of prison and back in
business". 2015-11-06. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
^ Bowers, Simon (2011-10-05). "Fast Eddie, friend to celebrities,
swaps Portland Place mansion for prison cell". The Guardian.
ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2016-09-18.
^ Evans, Martin (29 July 2014). "Fraudster forced to sell off 'unique'
London mansion to pay legal bills". The Telegraph. Retrieved 18
^ Kokenes, Chris (March 19, 2009), "N.Y. lawyer arraigned in alleged
$700M fraud", CNNMoney.com, retrieved April 10, 2011
^ Lozano, Juan A. (17 October 2006). "
Judge vacates conviction of Ken
Lay". CBS News. Associated Press. Archived from the original on May
^ Nicole Muehlhausen, BIO: Tom Petters, KSTP.com, September 24, 2008.
Retrieved October 8, 2008.
^  Archived February 10, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
^ Hughes, Art (December 2, 2009). "UPDATE 2-Tom Petters found guilty
Ponzi scheme fraud". Reuters. Thomson Reuters. Retrieved December
Edward J. Balleisen Fraud: An American History from Barnum to Madoff.
ISBN 9780691164557 (2017). Princeton University Press.
Fred Cohen Frauds, Spies, and Lies – and How to Defeat Them.
ISBN 1-878109-36-7 (2006). ASP Press.
Green, Stuart P. Lying, Cheating, and Stealing: A Moral Theory of
White Collar Crime. Oxford University Press, 2006.
Fraud – Alex Copola Podgor, Ellen S. Criminal Fraud, (1999)
Vol, 48, No. 4 American
Law Review 1.
The Nature, Extent and Economic Impact of
Fraud in the UK. February,
The Fraudsters – How Con Artists Steal Your
Money(ISBN 978-1-903582-82-4) by Eamon Dillon, published
September 2008 by Merlin Publishing
Zhang, Yingyu. The Book of Swindles: Selections from a Late Ming
Collection. Columbia University Press, 2017. ISBN 9780231178631
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