During the Scam Most Scam Victims Break the Law
After the Scam, this Poor Decision Making will Continue
The following does not represent legal opinion and is provided for general education only. You are strongly advised to seek the advice of a licensed attorney regarding these topics and how they may apply to you and your situation.
Scam Victims Are Scammed
Yes, some criminals scammed these victims, but in the process, many also break the law!
HERE IS A BRIEF OUTLINE OF SOME OF THE LAWS THAT SCAM VICTIMS (MAY) BREAK DURING THE SCAM AND AFTERWARD.
This list is not intended to be comprehensive, additionally, laws change and are amended, or removed, or replaced. Plus, each locality may have unique laws.
It is important to remember, that foreknowledge and intent are not always a defense – it depends on the law, circumstances, and the locality. In many cases, it just depends on how the judge feels about it!
If you may have broken a law during or after the scam see a criminal defense attorney immediately.
Additionally, while criminal charges may never come, you are also encouraged to consider your civil liability for your actions.
PLEASE NOTE: this is not being presented to be judgmental or condemning of victims, but to help them understand the scope of all the potential problems they may have or are still creating for themselves.
During The Scam …
Many victims are in some way or other involved in money laundering. Money laundering involves receiving money in any form and returning it or forwarding it to a criminal in the same or another form.
Money Mules routinely do this for scammers – knowingly or unknowingly. If a victim helps a criminal (or terrorist) engage in money laundering they could be considered an Accessory or a Principal (to the crime).
Bank or Financial Transaction Fraud
Many victims will falsify information when performing a financial money transfer transaction. This includes misrepresenting the nature of the relationship between the sender (the victim) and the receiver (the scammer).
Western Union, Moneygram, and most financial institutions now ask what the relationship is and if you really know the person receiving the money. Of course, victims routinely lie about this. This is one of the main reasons why such institutions owe the victim nothing when the victim demands their money back – the victim lied. In other cases when the victim gave the scammer access to their accounts the severity of the crime is much more serious.
In addition, many scam victims used their credit cards to send money to scammers. In many cases using a credit card to facilitate or enable crime is itself a crime, and makes the victim an accessory. If they gave access to their credit cards to the scammer, then that can be credit card fraud.
Civil or Criminal Fraud
Many victims ask friends, family, or even employers for money. Rarely do these victims tell the truth about the need or reason for the money. Even if it was a gift and not a loan, it is still fraud. The victim obtained money by lying about the reason for it.
This is one of the most difficult things about having to tell family and friends about the scam afterward – that they lied to them to get money for a criminal. Because of this, the people that provided the money could potentially file criminal charges or litigate for the recovery of their money.
Aiding and Abetting A Crime
A charge of aiding and abetting (also know as being an Accessory) has three requirements.
- First, someone else must have committed a crime (the scammer.)
- Second, the defendant (the victim) must have assisted that person in the commission of the crime. This could include providing money or other benefits or services.
- Third, the defendant must have had knowledge of that person’s criminal intent or criminal plans. A victim may claim they did not know, but did anyone tell the victim they were being scammed? Not believing after being told is the same as knowing.
This is where it gets tricky:
An individual will not be found guilty of accidentally assisting in a crime. For instance, if a victim does not know it is a crime, but if friends or family tell the victim they are being scammed and the victim continues anyway – ignoring them – then it is not accidental. Accidental might be like adding the scammer to their Facebook friends list, and they scam another friend – the access was provided by the victim but they did not intend or know it would lead to another crime.
An accessory to a crime can have knowledge of criminal intent before, or after, the commission of the crime. An individual who is aware of the crime before it occurs and gives assistance in preparation to commit the crime is called an “accessory before the fact.” If an individual only learns of the crime after it has taken place, but provides assistance in the aftermath of the crime, he is known as an “accessory after the fact.” Failure to report a scammer could fall under this, though that could also be considered “Obstruction of Justice.”
The types of actions that constitute assistance to a crime vary greatly. A person may provide financial support for example. Where the assistance the accessory provides rises to the level of significant involvement in planning the crime, such as helping a scammer obtain money from others – this can elevate the charge from aiding and abetting to conspiracy.
Funding or Supporting Terrorism
It is a crime in most countries to financially support terrorism. However, many scammers actively support terrorism. Thus supporting scammers that support terrorism is the same as supporting terrorism.
This is one of the reasons why it is important to report all scams that involve money since it might be related to terrorism. In fact, major terrorist organizations such as Al Qaeda, Islamic State, Boko Haram, Abu Nidal, and others are/were involved in online crime. Today, countries like Iran and North Korea are all very active in online scams.
Report these crimes to the national police (FBI, etc.) since that information may lead back to terrorists, and you do not want the police knocking on your door in the middle of the night.
You can see an example of terrorist use of scamming here.
Of course, there are numerous laws around the globe and we do not pretend that these are the only laws that might apply to a victim.
For example, in Saudi Arabia (or other Sharia law countries) women do not have property, so sending money to a scammer is consider theft from their family or male relatives. This is punishable by flogging. If the woman was married while having a relationship online with a scammer, this could be infidelity, and that can be the most extreme punishment.
After The Scam …
Accessory After The Fact (Aiding And Abetting)
If a victim was used as a Mule, and after ending the scam does not report it or take action to prevent others from being victimized they might be considered an Accessory After The Fact. This is why it is so important to report these crimes immediately to the police so the scammer can be stopped as much as possible. This can be serious if a victim willingly hides their involvement and that of the scammer.
Threats or Hate Against Others By Internet
After a scam, victims experience a range of emotional states and many engage in anger,