Financial Fraud Crime Victims
This article is intended for Fraud & Scam Victims in the United States. However, there is equivalent information for most western countries – look on your Department or Ministry of Justice for such information.
As the victim of a federal fraud crime, you may suffer financial and emotional harm and even medical problems relating to your victimization. And you are not alone. Millions of people in the United States are victims of fraud crimes each year.
Being the victim of fraud means that you are going to be dealing with a complicated set of requirements, laws, and things you will need to do. This will not always be easy, but you can do it – you will make it through this process if you are committed. You will have a lot to learn, and we work tirelessly to bring the information you need to know to every victim of scams and fraud. But, no one will save you, you will have to do the work yourself, but if you do, not only will it help you obtain the best possible outcome, also, this also contributes to your long-term emotional recovery. RomanceScamsNOW.com is the SCARS encyclopedia of scams – use it and you will learn!
A Victim Of A Federal Crime
Under federal law, a “victim” means an individual who suffers direct or threatened physical, financial, or emotional harm as a result of the commission of a crime. If the victim is deceased, then that person’s spouse, child, parent, guardian or other relative may qualify as the victim on their behalf. If the victim is a minor (under age 18), then the victim’s parent or guardian may choose to exercise the child victim’s rights. If the victim is mentally or emotionally unable to participate in the legal process, then his or her parent, guardian or custodian may exercise that right.
The Emotional Impact Of Fraud Victimization
Fraud crime is a personal violation. Your trust in your own judgment, and your trust in others, is often shattered. You may feel a sense of betrayal, especially if the perpetrator is someone you know. You may have hesitated to tell family members, friends, or colleagues about your victimization for fear of criticism. If they then were exploited by the same fraud, you might feel guilty and suffer a sense of isolation.
Fraud crimes can destroy your financial security and sometimes that of your loved ones. If you are elderly, disabled, or on a fixed income – and you lack opportunities to recover your losses – you may face additional trauma, even the loss of your independence.
You may experience feelings about:
- Yourself. That old saying, “Hindsight is 20-20,” is never more true than in financial fraud crimes. Many victims believe they should have known or recognized what was going on, or blame themselves for being too trusting or naive.
- The fraud criminal for taking financial advantage of you, betraying your trust, and jeopardizing your financial independence and security
- Your family, friends and colleagues for blaming you, being upset over what they perceive as your lack of judgment, or withdrawing financial or emotional support.
- The investigative and prosecutorial phases of the justice process, especially in cases that progress slowly or do not result in financial outcomes favorable to you.
- The news media for failing to warn the public about fraud schemes or for exploiting victims when fraud crimes are reported.
- Consumer protection agencies for failing to protect your interests.
- Creditors who don’t understand your dire financial circumstances.
- Community, state and federal agencies if their resources are limited or they do not have the authority to help you.
General Information About Fraud Victimization
What are my rights under federal law?
- The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim’s dignity and privacy.
- The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender.
- The right to reasonable, accurate and timely notice of any public court proceeding, or any parole proceeding involving the crime, or of any release or escape of the accused.
- The right to be present at all public court proceedings related to the offense, unless the court determines that testimony by the victim would be materially affected if the victim heard other testimony at that proceeding.
- The reasonable right to confer with an attorney for the Government in the case.
- The right to full and timely restitution as provided in law.
- The right to be reasonably heard at any public proceeding in the district court involving release, plea, sentencing, or any parole proceeding.
- The right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay.
- The right to be informed in a timely manner of any plea bargain or deferred prosecution agreement.
- The right to be informed of the rights under this section and the services described in section 503(c) of the Victims’ Rights and Restitution Act of 1990 (42 U.S.C. 10607(c) and provided contact information for the Office of the Victims’ Rights Ombudsman of the Department of Justice.
What Other Laws Affect Victim’S Rights?
In addition to the Victim and Witness Protection Act (VWPA) of 1982, applicable laws include:
Federal Victim FAQs
What Is Fraud?
Fraud occurs when a person or business intentionally deceives another with promises of goods, services, or financial benefits that do not exist, was never intended to be provided, or was misrepresented. Typically, victims give money but never receive what they paid for or what was promised. However, anytime a victim provides something of value (including their time) as a result of deception by the scammer or fraudster it can be considered fraud.
Who Are The Victims Of Fraud?
Virtually anyone can fall prey to fraudulent crimes. Con artists do not pass over anyone due to such factors as a person’s age, finances, educational level, gender, race, culture, ability, or geographic location. In fact, fraud perpetrators often target certain groups based on these factors.
Why Are Fraud Crimes Under-Reported?
Although fraud victims are not alone, they often suffer their losses alone and in silence. Shame, guilt, embarrassment, and disbelief are among the reasons that only an estimated 3 to 5 percent of the nation’s fraud victims report their crimes to law enforcement.
Other reasons include victims’ doubt about their own judgment, a sense of betrayal, and fears about how their family members, friends, and business associates will react. Some victims feel their losses are not large enough to report, do not want to get involved, think law enforcement agencies will not take the crime seriously, or think nothing will result from reporting the crime.
Many victims feel they only have themselves to blame when in reality, calculating, skilled perpetrators (scammers) are to blame for these criminal acts.
Who Commits Fraud Crimes?
Like their victims, fraud criminals are varied educationally, socially, geographically, and financially. Most con-artists make a career of their criminal activities. Some even join professional organizations to legitimize their schemes and project a respectable front. Others join larger cartels or gangs to obtain both protection and other benefits, such as more criminal support and training.
What Makes Your Case A U.S. Federal Matter?
Fraud crimes can be prosecuted at either the state (local) or federal level, depending on a number of factors:
- Type of fraud scheme and amount of money stolen
- Laws violated (federal, state, or both)
- Method of operation
- Use of public services (such as the U.S. Postal Service, Telecommunication systems, Internet, Medicare, and more) that fall under federal or state regulation and authority
- Location of the crime (within a state or across state or national borders)
What Are Some Common Types Of Fraud?
The weapon of choice for fraud criminals is not a gun or a knife. Rather, it is most often a telephone, email, website, social media, etc. – offering: love & companionship, secret treasures, work from home or jobs, free vacations, merchandise, investment opportunities, services, and many more.
Not all frauds involve the direct selling of goods to consumers. Many target emotional connections or other desires. Some frauds target institutions or businesses.
A Few Examples Include:
- Lotto Scams
- Romance Scams
- Advance Fee Fraud
- Telemarketing fraud (telephone solicitation for phony goods or services)
- Mail fraud
- Email Phishing Scams
- Health care and insurance fraud
- Pension and trust fund fraud
- Credit card and check fraud (including fraud by impersonation resulting from theft of mail or credit cards)
- Identity theft or Impersonation
- Fraud related to securities, commodities, and other investments
- Bank fraud & Money Laundering
- Pyramid or Ponzi schemes
- Other Internet fraud
What Kind Of Documentation Do I Need To Have Regarding My Case?
In addition to providing written and oral information about the case (the fraud or scam), you will be required to show any documentation of your financial losses.
REMEMBER: if there is no financial loss the police and the government will not consider it a crime and will not even want to take a report. However, SCARS does consider it a crime and you can report all scams (with or without monetary losses on Anyscam.com
You should save all paperwork relating to the crime, including such items as letters, emails, chats, relating to the scam, of solicitation, prospectuses, canceled checks, cash receipts, receipts for cashier’s checks or money orders, bank statements, investment statements, or medical statements.
If your case proceeds to investigation, prosecution and trial and a conviction is secured, the judge will need this documentation to determine whether the offender will be ordered to pay restitution for your losses.
Does The U.S. Attorney’s Office Offer Any Services To Assist Victims?
Yes, there are many services provided by our office to assist you if you are a victim of a crime. The staff of the Victim-Witness Program will work to become aware of your needs, feelings and concerns, and to answer questions you may have about participating in the case.
SERVICES AVAILABLE IN OUR OFFICE TO HELP YOU
The staff of the U.S. ATTORNEY’S Victim-Witness Program will work to become aware of each victim’s needs, feelings and concerns, and to answer questions each victim may have about participating in the case. Services commonly provided include:
- Support services, logistics
- Referrals to appropriate community agencies and programs, including information on how to apply for Crime Victims Compensation in violent crime cases
- Security/Protection information and referrals
- Assistance with employers and creditors
- Information about the federal criminal justice system and your rights and roles as you participate
- Notification about dates, times, places, and outcomes of court proceedings
- Information about how you can submit a victim impact statement, or, where permissible, speak at court proceedings
- Information regarding the process for an order of restitution
- Accompanying victims to court for trials and sentencing hearings, upon request and when staff is available
- Assisting victims in obtaining release of their property after a case has been completed
It is important to understand that only very rarely are transnational scammers arrested by U.S. authorities. However, when they are, many times U.S. law enforcement also seizes their bank accounts and other assets. Victims’ should explore restitution and compensation options for each case with that U.S. Attorney’s office handling the case before a sentence is handed down.
In federal court, a convicted offender may be ordered to reimburse victims for financial losses incurred due to the offender’s crime. This reimbursement is called “restitution,” and it may be ordered for lost income, property damage, counseling, medical expenses, funeral costs, or other financial costs directly related to the crime.
Some financial losses are not eligible for restitution, such as state or federal taxes, interest, penalties, or fines; expenses for private legal representation relating to personal or business legal issues raised by the crime; fees for tax advisors, accountants, or other professionals; and legal expenses for the civil recovery of financial losses. Losses for “pain & suffering” are also not eligible for restitution.
To determine the amount of restitution to be ordered, the U.S. Probation Office gathers financial loss information from the investigative agent(s), the AUSA (U.S. Attorney) and victims prior to sentencing. Often this information is obtained by having the victims complete a “Victim Impact Statement.” If you would like to complete a victim impact statement, please contact the Victim-Witness Program staff. A court may also decline to order restitution if it finds that determining restitution in a case is too complex, in which case civil litigation might be an option
At sentencing, the judge then enters an “Order for Restitution,” directing the offender to reimburse victims for some or all of the offense-related financial losses (this can come from money seized – in some cases – or from future earnings). Compliance with the Order of Restitution automatically becomes a condition of the offender’s probation or supervised release. However, even before the offender is released from prison, he or she is encouraged to begin repaying restitution by participating in the Inmate Financial Responsibility Program. Through this program, a percentage of the inmate’s prison wages is applied to his or her restitution obligations.
Even If Restitution Is Ordered, How Likely Is It I Will Receive Any Money?
The U.S. Attorney’s Office Financial Litigation Unit (FLU) is charged with enforcing orders of restitution, and monitors efforts in enforcing a Judgment if defendant assets or income are identified. FLU will pursue various means to enforce restitution, as its resources permit, on behalf of identified victims for 20 years from the filing date of the Judgment, plus the time period of actual incarceration, or until the death of the defendant. In addition, while a defendant is under the supervision of a probation officer, that probation officer will also monitor and ensure appropriate restitution is paid, where possible.
Realistically, however, the chance of full recovery is very low. Many defendants have already spent the money that they stole, and will not have sufficient assets to repay their victims. Many defendants owe very large amounts of restitution to a large number of victims. In federal cases, restitution in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars is not unusual. While defendants may make partial payments toward the full restitution owed, it is rare that defendants are able to fully pay the entire restitution amount owed.
What Else Can You Do About Your Financial Loss?
Some losses may be tax-deductible. Because tax laws are complicated, consult a qualified tax advisor or the Internal Revenue Service to see if your losses qualify.
If you believe the fraud perpetrator has assets, you may be able to recover some losses through a civil lawsuit. Contact your state or local bar association for the names of attorneys who specialize in this area of law to determine if your case is appropriate for civil action.