The Florida Bar

Fraud, Civil or Criminal

December 12, 2022

Fraud is a broad term that refers to the intentional deception of a person or entity by another made for monetary or personal gain. Laws against fraud vary from state to state, and can be criminal or civil in nature. While the exact wording of fraud charges varies among state and federal laws. the essential elements needed to prove a fraud claim in general include: (1) a misrepresentation of a material fact; (2) by a person or entity who knows or believes it to be false; (3) to a person or entity who justifiably relies on the misrepresentation; and (4) actual injury or loss resulting from his or her reliance. The main purpose of fraud is to gain something of value by misleading or deceiving someone into thinking something which the fraud perpetrator knows to be false.

Criminal fraud requires criminal intent on the part of the perpetrator, and is punishable by fines or imprisonment. Civil fraud, on the other hand, applies more broadly to circumstances where bad-faith is usually involved, and where the penalties are meant to punish the perpetrator and put the victim back in the same position before the fraud took place.

There are many types of fraud offenses, several of which occur through the mail, internet, phone, or by wire. Common types include:

  • bankruptcy fraud
  • tax fraud, or tax evasion
  • identity theft
  • insurance fraud
  • mail fraud
  • credit/debit card fraud
  • securities fraud
  • telemarketing fraud
  • wire fraud

Penalties for Fraud Offenses

Penalties for fraud offenses may include criminal penalties, civil penalties, or both. Most criminal fraud offenses are considered felony crimes and are punishable by jail, fines, probation, or all of the above. Civil penalties may include restitution or payment of substantial fines.

Changes may occur in this area of law. The information provided is brought to you as a public service, and is intended to help you better understand the law in general. It is not intended to be legal advice regarding your particular problem or substitute for the advice of a lawyer.