What Is Fraud And What Are The Penalties If Caught

It might just be me doing unlucky but during this Covid, lockdown period the number of attempted scams seems to have increased. Emails, text messages all seem to have increased over this period and its getting more difficult to spot the fake from the real thing.

There has been a couple of emails that I have nearly fallen foul to and its probably because I recently separated. Its because the other half (3 times married lol) always took care of the household bills, I let them they like to be n control.

What is fraud?

Fraud is the deliberate use of deceit or dishonesty to cause loss or disadvantage to another person or party. In England and Wales, fraudulent offences are governed by the Fraud Act 2006. The legislation makes it easier for authorities such as the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) and the Serious Fraud Office to pursue legal action against those suspected of fraud.

There are three main offences under the Fraud Act 2006:

  1. Fraud by false representation
  2. Fraud by failing to disclose information
  3. Abuse of position

Someone is guilty of fraud by false representation if he dishonestly makes a false representation with the intention of making a gain for himself or causing loss to another. A representation is considered false if it is misleading or untrue, and the person making it knows (or suspects it might be) misleading or untrue. An example of fraud by false representation would be knowingly exaggerating your income on a mortgage application.

Fraud by failing to disclose information is slightly different. To be in breach of this offence, someone must dishonestly fail to disclose information which he is under a legal duty to disclose, with the intention of making a gain for himself or a loss to another. An example would be making an insurance claim for an item that has been lost or stolen, when in fact you remain in possession of that item.

Abuse of position is when someone occupies a position in which he is expected to safeguard the financial interests of another person, but dishonestly abuses that position to make again for himself or cause a loss to another. An example would be an employee who in charge of the company’s accounts. If this person engineers the system to make payments into their own personal bank account, this would amount to an abuse of position.

The legislation also makes it illegal to make, supply or be in possession of any articles used for fraudulent activity. This might include fake credit cards or card-reading technology. Furthermore, you cannot participate in a fraudulent business carried on by a sole trader or company, or obtain services dishonestly. This is where Fraud Solicitors would come in.

The TV Licence Fraud

So this was the first one that nearly caught me, when I left the family home I had to stay with my mother for a while. So when I got this place I moved in straight away even without decorating. I wanted in so the kids could sleep in their own beds when they stopped with me rather than may mums floor.

It was a bit of a world wind, no carpets nor furniture, absolutely nothing. However I must have done the TV licence and just forgot about it. Then I get an email months and months later, and I am like OMG I need to pay the TV licence. Luckily I stopped checked my emails and then my online banking. I had set up a direct debt for the TV licence so now I know better and won’t fall for the TV Licence fraud scam again.

The Water Rates Scam

Basically it’s exactly the same as the TV scam. They send you a nice convincing looking email demanding payment. However this time when I logged into the official water rates site (no I did not click the link in the email) I did actually owe them money.

I get around at least 100 emails everyday, most in the inbox and some in the junk. I have to go through each one as some of the junk ones are to do with my work. My MacBook email is very sensitive, hey ho.

The Coronavirus Test Kit Scam

So we are hearing on every media outlet that we need to trace and test so its not unexpected to get a phone call on the subject. The Covid scam starts pretty normal,

“we are calling you to tell you that you have come into contact with someone who has tested positive for Covid 19”.

NHS Test & Trace

But then at the last stage after they have taken your address they ask for your credit card number. They tell you it is to cover the cost of the Covid 19 testing kit, the postage and the actual testing itself. If you refuse they get quite aggressive and start telling you are irresponsible and putting people at risk. Don’t fall for the Covid scam. Go to the official NHS Website

The ten scams to be wary of

Covid-19 financial support scams

1. Fake government emails, which look like they are from government departments offering grants of up to £7,500. The emails contain links which steal personal and financial information.

2. Scam emails offering access to “Covid-19 relief funds”, which encourage victims to fill in a form and hand over their personal information.

3. Official-looking emails offering a “council tax reduction”. The emails contain links that lead to a fake government website, which harvests personal and financial information.

4. Benefit recipients are offered help in applying for universal credit, but fraudsters grab some of the payment as an advance for their “services”.

Health scams

5. Phishing emails claiming that the recipient has been in contact with someone diagnosed with Covid-19. They lead to fake websites that are used to steal personal and financial information or infect devices with malware.

6. Fake adverts for non-existent coronavirus-related products, such as hand sanitizer and face masks, which simply take the victim’s cash and send them nothing.

Lockdown scams

7. Fake emails and texts claiming to be from TV Licensing, telling people they are eligible for six months for free because of the pandemic. Victims are told there has been a problem with their direct debit and are asked to click on a link that takes them to a fake website, which steals their personal and financial information.

8. Emails asking people to update their TV subscription services payment details by clicking on a link which is then used to steal credit card information.

9. Fake profiles on social media sites are used to manipulate victims into handing over their money. Criminals will often use the identities of real people to strike up conversation with their targets.

10. Fake investment opportunities are advertised on social media sites, encouraging victims to “take advantage of the financial downturn”. Bitcoin platforms are using emails and adverts on social media platforms to encourage unsuspecting victims to put money into fake companies using fake websites. (source)

What are the penalties for fraud?

The penalties for fraud depend on whether you are charged with a summary offence or an indictable offence. Summary offences are more minor charges and involve very small-scale fraud. However, the authorities do not take fraud offences lightly and cases typically proceed to the Crown Court.

The maximum penalty for fraud when found guilty:

  • On a summary conviction –is 12 months in prison, a fine, or both
  • On conviction on indictment –is 10 years in prison, a fine, or both

A fraud conviction will not necessarily lead to the maximum penalty. The judge will consider various factors when deciding a sentence. This includes the accused’s involvement in the fraudulent activity, the extent of the deceit and the monetary value of the gain/loss.

It can also be possible to reduce a sentence by pleading guilty. There is a sliding scale whereby the earlier you plead guilty, the greater the sentence reduction will be. Those who plead guilty at the Magistrates’ Court may see their sentence cut by up to a third. However, this strategy is only suitable in certain cases. If our fraud solicitors believe you stand a reasonable prospect of success, it may be preferable to plead not guilty and defend the charges. We will discuss the best course of action to take in your particular case.