Financial crimes involve activities that defraud people of their money. Whereas robbery involves the threat of violence, crimes of financial fraud tend to be stealthy and non-violent. They are often called white collar crimes. Although these crimes don't cause physical harm, they're still serious and carry significant penalties.
Credit Card Fraud
It is fraud to use credit without the owner's knowledge or consent. Credit card fraud usually involves acquiring someone's credit card or number, then using it to make purchases. Generally, the state's attorney must prove that you got the card or number with the intention of using it to buy merchandise. The more you charge, the stiffer the sentence. Punishments vary from state to state, but those who break these laws can go to prison for up to ten years.
Identity Theft Is a Form of Financial Fraud
Identity fraud involves more than just using a single card to run up unauthorized purchases in someone else's name. Identity fraud involves using the victim's personal information - such as a Social Security number - to open one or more credit accounts in the victim's name. Victims might be unaware of what's going on until a lender turns them down. When they look at their credit reports, they discover accounts they didn't open. Identity theft is a felony in many states. Prison terms and fines increase with the amount of property you acquire.
Insurance fraud occurs when someone reports an incident that did not occur to an insurance company - auto, home, health, workers compensation - with the intention of collecting money on the claim. It also includes exaggerating the results of something that did occur, to get a larger payout.
Tax Evasion Can Be a Federal Offense
"Cheating" on your taxes - tax evasion - is a federal crime, but it often results in only IRS penalties and fines. Jail terms result only from the most serious offenses. Tax evasion includes not filing returns, claiming deductions for which you don't qualify, or failing to report income. If the government catches you, you'll have to pay the tax bill after your illegal actions are corrected, plus penalties and fines. If you don't pay the money, the IRS can garnish your wages and take your property.
Embezzlement Involves Betrayal of Trust
Embezzlement is a form of theft, committed against someone who trusted you. It's not embezzlement if you don't have a personal relationship or close business association with the victim. Embezzlement usually refers to unlawfully taking money from an estate if you're appointed executor of a will, from your employer, or from anyone else who trusted you to take care of their business for them. Embezzlement can be either a felony or misdemeanor offense, depending on your state's laws and the specific details of the crime.
A Criminal Lawyer Can Help
The law surrounding a crime of financial fraud is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact a criminal lawyer.