Fraud is on the rise. Its perpetrators include anyone from members of parliament to bikie gangs who team up with rivals to perpetuate fraud.
Earlier this year, cold-callers from call-centres were used to swindle over one million dollars from Australians.
The police uncovered the fraudulent operation, run by bikies who were using call centres as a front for a fake investment scheme.
Unsuspecting call centre staff had been enabling criminals to pocket over $1.4 million by peddling fake superannuation opportunities over the phone.
While the methods used to commit fraud are ever more creative and complex, the definition according to the law remains the same: a person commits fraud if they obtain financial advantage by a dishonest act of deception.
Fraud can include the more elaborate – such as the ‘fake your own death’ insurance ploys – to the more basic phishing scam that spam to millions of email accounts.
But fraud can also include things that like lying on a statutory declaration form, or creating or knowingly using any false document intended to gain financial advantage, or cause financial disadvantage.
Lying about your most recent speeding ticket when you are low on points, or not being completely honest in your tax forms could end up making you liable for something much more serious than a suspended licence or a few extra tax-free dollars.
Fraud comes with severe penalties – up to ten years in prison.
The most common types of fraud that are prosecuted in NSW courts are:
- Using deception to gain money or other items of value
- Making or using a false instrument
- Larceny (theft) by an employee
- Collecting or receiving money that was fraudulently misappropriated
- Cheating or defrauding by directors of companies
If you weren’t the one who committed the fraud, it is possible for you to get caught up in the law, even if you did not know you were participating in anything illegal.
Participating in a pyramid scheme is against the law in Australia, and you are almost certainly breaking the law if you transfer money for someone that you don’t know. If you agree to transfer money for a stranger, chances are high that you are being used for a highly illegal money-laundering scheme.
Offers like this could come from something as simple as a ‘work from home’ job opportunity and may even attempt to convince you that it is legitimate, perhaps by using the explanation that they need a bank account in Australia to carry out their business.
You should never give your banking details to anyone, and look for warning signs before signing up to anything you think sounds suspicious.
If you are still unsure, the best thing to do is to seek independent legal advice to make sure you don’t get involved in anything that could end up making you lose a lot of money, or having to try and explain yourself in a NSW court.
If you have been inadvertently caught up in something you think could be fraud or a scam, the best thing to do is report it.
But perhaps the police are already onto you. In order to prove you guilty, the prosecution must prove, beyond reasonable doubt that:
- You acted deceptively and dishonestly
- Your actions allowed you to gain someone else’s property, to obtain financial advantage or cause financial disadvantage.
If the police have already charged you with fraud, you should get legal advice as soon as possible. Good representation is essential because of the heavy penalties attached to fraud. As well as jail time, fraud carries a potential fine and a fraud conviction is not going to be advantageous on your resume.
An experienced lawyer can defend your case in a number of ways. Fraud can often be difficult to prove, so your lawyer should be able to highlight any problems in the prosecution case and may be able to push for the withdrawal of the charges.
A lawyer experienced in appearing in NSW courts, with a proven track record will give you the best chance of a successful resolution of the case against you.