Fraud in the general sense refers to a dishonest action by someone who manipulates the truth, omits or misrepresents important information for the purposes of financial gain. Those who are found guilty of fraud may be punished with fines, prison time or a requirement to provide financial restitution to the parties that were harmed.
There are two primary kinds of fraud: criminal fraud and civil fraud. In criminal fraud, criminal statutes -- whether they are state or federal -- will have been violated. In civil fraud, a person may have conducted business in bad faith. In nearly every fraud case, the plaintiff or prosecutor in the matter must prove all the following:
- The defendant made a misrepresentation or omission of a material fact. The legal term "material" in this context means that the misrepresented or omitted fact would have been material to the victims' ability to avoid becoming a victim of the fraud. In some situations, all that must be proven is that the misrepresented or omitted facts would have been enough to cause the victim to reconsider the action that led to the harm.
- The one who committed the omission or misrepresentation knew that the action would lead the other party to have a false understanding.
- The victim relied on the misrepresentation or omission; and
- The victim suffered a loss or injury as a result.
Each of the above elements must be proven "with particularity." This means that the plaintiff or the prosecution must separately prove them with evidence. If you've been accused of fraud, the prosecution or plaintiff bringing the charges against you will be subject to this burden of proof. Until -- and only if -- you have been proved to be guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you will remain innocent of your fraud charges.
Source: FindLaw, "Fraud," accessed June 15, 2018