Fraud occurs when a person or business intentionally deceives another with promises of goods, services, or financial benefits that do not exist, were never intended to be provided, or were misrepresented. Typically, victims give money but never receive what they paid for.
Fraud can be committed through many media, including mail, wire, phone, and the internet (computer crime and internet fraud). According to a Department of Justice report as many as 24 million people in the United States are victims of fraud crimes each year.
On an international level, internet fraud has skyrocketed due to the global expansion of the internet. Contributing factors of this growth in recent years has been the ease of which users can hide their locations, the difficulty of checking identity and legitimacy online, and the simplicity with which hackers can divert potential victims browsers to dishonest sites in order to steal credit card and other valuable information.
Unreported Fraud Crimes
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 15% of the nation's fraud victims report their situation 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 that 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 have only themselves to blame. In reality, calculating, skilled perpetrators are to blame for these criminal acts.
Committing Fraud Crimes
Like their victims, fraud criminals vary educationally, socially, geographically, and financially. The image of fly-by-night con artists depicted by the media does not describe most fraud criminals. Most con artists make a career out of their criminal activities. Some even join professional organizations to legitimize their schemes and project a respectable front.