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In the broadest sense, a fraud is an intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual. The specific legal definition varies by legal jurisdiction. Fraud is a crime, and is also a civil law violation.Many hoaxes are fraudulent, although those not made for personal gain are not technically frauds. Defrauding people of money is presumably the most common type of fraud, but there have also been many fraudulent "discoveries" in art, archaeology, and science.

Types of fraudulent acts

Fraud can be committed through many methods, including mail, wire, phone, and the internet (computer crime and internet fraud). The difficulty of checking identity and legitimacy online, and the ease with which hackers can divert browsers to dishonest sites and steal credit card details, the international dimensions of the web and ease with which users can hide their location, all contribute to making internet fraud the fastest growing area of fraud.

Acts which may constitute criminal fraud include:

Elements of fraud

Common law fraud has nine elements:,
  1. a representation of an existing fact;
  2. its materiality;
  3. its falsity;
  4. the speaker's knowledge of its falsity;
  5. the speaker's intent that it shall be acted upon by the plaintiff;
  6. plaintiff's ignorance of its falsity;
  7. plaintiff's reliance on the truth of the representation;
  8. plaintiff's right to rely upon it; and
  9. consequent damages suffered by plaintiff.


Most jurisdictions in the United States require that each element be pled with particularity and be proved with clear, cogent, and convincing evidence (very probable evidence) to establish a claim of fraud. The measure of damages in fraud cases is to be computed by the "benefit of bargain" rule, which is the difference between the value of the property had it been as represented, and its actual value. Special damages may be allowed if shown proximately caused by defendant's fraud and the damage amounts are proved with specificity.

Notable fraudsters

  • Buddy Adkins & Johnny Bonanno, US: Spector Freight Systems owner(s) falsely represented as a legitimate trucking firm to swindle tens of thousands from transportation firms by false pretenses. Also used check fraud as well as wire and mail fraud.
  • Frank Abagnale Jr., US impostor who wrote bad checks and falsely represented himself as a qualified member of professions such as airline pilot, doctor, and attorney. The film Catch Me If You Can is based on his life.
  • Eddie Antar, founder of Crazy Eddie, who has about $1 billion worth of judgments against him stemming from fraudulent accounting practices at that company.
  • Cassie Chadwick, who pretended to be Andrew Carnegie's daughter to get loans.
  • Charles Dawson, an amateur British archeologist who claimed to have found the Piltdown man.
  • Marc Dreier, Managing founder of Attorney firm Dreir LLP. Prosecutors allege that from 2004 through December 2008, He sold approximately $700 million worth of fictitious promissory notes.
  • Richard Eaton, an Englishmarker businessman who was business partners with mobster Paul Vario and Jimmy Burke and was involved in the Lufthansa heist. An associate of the Lucchese crime family
  • Bernard Ebbers, founder of WorldCom, which inflated its asset statements by about $11 billion.
  • Ramón Báez Figueroa, banker from the Dominican Republicmarker and former president of Banco Intercontinental. Sentenced on October 21, 2007 to ten years in prison for a US$2.2 billion fraud case that drove the Caribbean nation into an economic crisis in 2003.
  • Martin Frankel is a former U.S. financier, convicted in 2002 of insurance fraud worth $208 million, racketeering and money laundering.
  • Samuel Israel III (1959)- Former hedge fund manager that ran the former fraudulent Bayou Hedge Fund Group. He had pretended to faked suicide.
  • Konrad Kujau, German fraudster and forger responsible for the "Hitler Diaries".
  • Kenneth Lay, the American businessman who built energy company Enron. He was one of the highest paid CEOs in America until he was ousted as Chairman and was 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 US history.
  • Gregor MacGregor, Scottish conman who tried to attract investment and settlers for the non-existent country of Poyais.
  • Bernard L. Madoff, creator of a $65 billion Ponzi scheme - the largest investor fraud ever attributed to a single individual.
  • Colleen McCabe, British headmistress who stole £½ million from her school.
  • Gaston Means, a professional conman during U.S. President Warren G. Harding's administration.
  • Matt the Knife, American born con artist, card cheat and pickpocket who, from the ages of approximately 14 through 21, bilked dozens of casinos, corporations and at least one Mafia crime family out of untold sums.
  • Michael Milken, "The Junk Bond King".
  • Barry Minkow and the ZZZZ Best scam.
  • Michael Monus, founder of Phar-Mor, which ultimately cost its investors more than $1 billion.
  • F. Bam Morrison, who conned the town of Wetumka, Oklahomamarker by promoting a circus that never came.
  • Lou Pearlman, former boy-band manager indicted by a federal grand jury in Orlando on charges that he schemed to bilk banks out of more than $100 million.
  • Frederick Emerson Peters, US impersonator who wrote bad checks.
  • Charles Ponzi and the Ponzi scheme.
  • Alves Reis, who forged documents to print 100,000,000 PTE in official escudo banknotes (adjusted for inflation, it would be worth about US$150 million today).
  • Christopher Rocancourt, a Rockefeller impersonator who defrauded Hollywoodmarker celebrities.
  • John Spano, a struggling businessman who faked massive success in an attempt to buy out the New York Islanders of the NHL.
  • Robert Allen Stanford (1950)- American businessman head of Stanford Financial Group accused of running a huge $8 billion dollar Ponzi scheme.
  • John Stonehouse, the last Postmaster-General of the UK and MP who faked his death.
  • Kevin Trudeau (1963) – US 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, who stole from the New York Stock Exchange Gratuity Fundmarker in the 1930s.
  • In the UK a report concluded that the total costs of fraud and dealing with fraud in the year 2005-2006 was at least 13.9 Billion GBP.
  • Michael Sabo (1945) who was best known as a check, stocks and bonds forger. He became nototious in the 1960s throughout the 1990s as a "Great Impostor" over 100 aliases, and earned millions from such.
  • Ashok Jadeja (2009) who has been accused of cheating people from across India of crores of rupees on the pretext of having divine blessings.


Different legal traditions

Jewish law: Geneivat da'at

In Jewish law, the concept of geneivat da'at (גניבת דעת, literally "mind theft") covers various forms of deception and fraud. One Midrash states that geneivat da'at is the worst type of theft, because it directly harms the person, not merely their money.

See also





References



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