How To Avoid Unknowingly Committing Fraud In Virginia
Accusations of fraud are a serious matter. Most people recognize fraud as a group of crimes committed with the intent to deceive, often associating the term with high profile white-collar crimes. It’s not unheard of for someone to find themselves entangled in fraud charges due to what he or she considered a minor white lie or innocent mistake. To avoid unknowingly putting yourself at risk of fraud charges, it’s important to have a thorough understanding of fraud laws in Virginia.
Understanding the Elements of Fraud
Failing to understand the elements of fraud under the law in Virginia can put a person at risk of accidentally committing illegal acts. Sometimes, an individual will unknowingly commit fraud by participating in an act of deceit that seems relatively minor – for example, enhancing income information to acquire a loan. Other times, fraudulent acts with no malicious intent are committed mistakenly, simply because the person was unaware of fraud laws.
There are several types of criminal fraud in Virginia.
With few exceptions, all cases of fraud contain the same basic elements. These include:
The misrepresentation of material facts
Knowledge on the part of the accused that they were misrepresenting facts
The above-mentioned misrepresentation of facts was made purposefully and with the intent to deceive the victim in the case
The victim, whether it be an individual or an institution, believed the facts provided and relied upon that information
The victim, whether it be an individual or an institution, suffered damages as a result of the above-mentioned misrepresentation of facts
These elements illustrate that in most cases of fraud, the misrepresentation of facts was purposeful with the intent to benefit from a financial gain of some type.
Considering this, how is it possible for someone to “accidentally” commit fraud?
In true cases of accidental fraud, establishing innocence in the charges is a relatively straightforward process. An example of accidental fraud would be when a person disputes a charge on their credit card without realizing that someone that is listed as an authorized user on the account made the purchase without their knowledge. Disputing credit card charges that were actually made and received is a form of fraud, however, in this case, it would be fairly simple to show that the defendant’s actions were due to ignorance in this case rather than malicious intent to deceive.
While true accidental fraud is usually a cut and dry case for the defense, the category of fraudulent acts that were committed without the defendant realizing the severity of their actions results in another situation altogether. These types of cases are often in the form of “little white lies” or other small deceitful deeds that may seem harmless but actually carry significant consequences.
Unknowingly Putting Yourself at Risk of Fraud Charges
To illustrate how serious a small misrepresentation of facts can be, here are a few examples of how defendants in criminal cases unknowingly put themselves at risk of fraud charges.
Insurance fraud – Moving and failing to notify your insurance company of your new address can be considered insurance fraud, especially if the move was to another state with different insurance laws or to an area that’s known for carrying a higher liability risk and therefore higher insurance premiums.
Healthcare fraud – Physicians have a cap on the amount of certain narcotics they can prescribe. Seeking out prescriptions for the same narcotic from multiple practitioners is called “doctor shopping” and is considered a form of health care fraud.
Mortgage fraud – Most lending facilities are willing to work with borrowers who require a co-signer on their loan. However, having a more qualified lender deceitfully acquire a loan on your behalf can be considered mortgage fraud, unless it’s considered a gift and the lender is aware of the terms.
Medicaid fraud – Each state has different income guideline requirements for their Medicaid program. If a self-employed person fails to report all of their income, especially if it’s an amount that may disqualify them from the program, they may be charged with Medicaid fraud.
These examples illustrate just a few of the ways that seemingly minor deceits can spiral into criminal fraud charges. Very few people in these situations start off with the intention of committing a federal crime. The first step to avoiding criminal charges is a thorough understanding of the fraud laws in Virginia. The second step is contacting an experienced defense attorney.
Contacting a Virginia Criminal Defense Attorney
If you’re facing fraud/criminal charges, it’s important that you seek the advice and counsel of an experienced Northern Virginia fraud defense attorney to review your case. Fraud laws in Virginia are complex and having someone by your side who understands them is key to your defense. Don’t make the mistake of waiting for fraud charges to go away on their own. Contact the The Smith Firm PLLC today.