Fraud cases vary enormously from simple benefit frauds to complex investment scheme frauds. Many of them involve lengthy investigations, a high volume of documents and often involve computer equipment being seized for analysis which can be both distressing and inconvenient.
When defending allegations of fraud, thorough case preparation is essential. At Wheldon Law, we are experienced in dealing with most types of fraud, and our fraud solicitors are able to provide honest and frank advice and support at every stage of the proceedings. We can offer you the expert legal guidance you need to navigate the various aspects of UK fraud law.
There are different types of fraud and some of the most common are detailed below.
When a claim for benefits is made, the applicant must sign a form stating that the information they provide is correct. They must also notify the Benefits Agency of any change in their circumstances that might affect their entitlement to benefits.
Nowadays, in order to streamline their processes, various UK government agencies share information with one another. If someone who pays income tax is living at the same address as someone who is claiming benefits, there is a strong likelihood that the Department for Work and Pensions will become aware of this and investigate the matter. Usually, the first time the individuals concerned find out about the investigation is when they receive a letter from the Benefits Agency inviting them to a voluntary interview under caution.
When there has been an overpayment of benefits of less than £2,000, the Benefits Agency will usually send the claimant a caution or an administrative penalty whereby they agree to repay the initial amount plus an additional sum (usually 30%). For sums in excess of £2,000, a prosecution will usually be brought. Prosecutions for benefit fraud can involve:
- An individual failing to inform the Benefits Agency about their actual financial circumstances when the claim was made; e.g., not disclosing their savings or income from employment.
- An individual failing to inform the Benefits Agency about their true living arrangements; e.g., they are living with a partner but claiming benefits as a lone parent.
- The use of a false identity to claim benefits.
- An individual not informing the Benefits Agency about a change in circumstances that might affect their entitlement to benefits; e.g., an inheritance or a lottery win.
If you receive a letter inviting you to a voluntary interview with the Benefits Agency, it is advisable to seek professional help from a fraud lawyer as soon as possible. By obtaining the appropriate legal advice, you will be able to determine what you need to do to clear up any misunderstandings or avoid paying a fine.
Passport & Identity fraud
Creating or using false documents such as passports and identification cards is a serious offence and those involved are often given a prison sentence. Besides falsifying public records, it is also an offence to own equipment that could be used to make forged documents or dishonestly obtain someone’s personal details (e.g., their name, address or bank account details). If you carry out any transaction using these false details, it will be regarded as identity fraud.
Identity fraud is one of the fastest-growing crimes in the country. Many UK fraud law experts have attributed this trend to the ever-growing accessibility and popularity of the internet. As it becomes increasingly easier and more convenient to conduct transactions online, more and more people are tempted to commit identity fraud to earn some quick money.
Identity fraud is a serious offence and the punishment often depends on the severity of the culpability and the damage caused. Being charged with this offence can have a damaging effect on an individual’s life and reputation. Thus, it is vital that they seek help from someone who is experienced in handling such cases to ensure that their case will be defended successfully.
A report by Action Fraud revealed that more than £78 million was lost in 2020 due to investment fraud, with each victim losing at least £45,000 to companies or individuals masquerading as genuine investment firms. Experts have blamed the growing number of investment fraud cases on the Covid-19 pandemic as many people have become more susceptible to fraudulent investment schemes owing to the financial hardships that have recently affected them.
Fraudulent investment schemes can be complex and they can take a number of different forms:
- Ponzi/Pyramid Schemes – these schemes usually offer a high return on an invested sum in a short space of time.
- Boiler Room Fraud – here, investors are sold shares for a much higher price than they are worth or the shares are for a company that does not exist. Investors are usually targeted through “cold-calling” on the telephone. The callers are often based abroad, which can then make it difficult to recover any invested funds.
- Recovery Room Fraud – this type of investment fraud is linked to boiler room fraud and occurs when a boiler room fraud victim is persuaded to pay an advance fee supposedly to help them recover their lost money.
- Binary Options Fraud – with this type of fraud, the victim is persuaded to join an online trading scheme in which they can see the amount of money they are making via a fake online trading platform. However, when they ask to withdraw their investment, the platform does not allow them to do so.
Individuals convicted of investment fraud can face a minimum of four to five years in prison. For cases involving more severe charges and damages, they can expect to be given a ten-year prison sentence or even longer. Because investment fraud is a serious matter, it is imperative that individuals charged with this offence seek sound legal advice and representation immediately.
The hacking of a computer is punishable under the Computer Misuse Act 1990 (CMA 1990). This offence can take many forms, from hacking computer databases to defrauding large corporations or stealing an individual’s identity.
Under CMA 1990, the following activities are considered illegal:
- Unauthorised access to computer material
- Unauthorised access with intent to commit a further offence
- Unauthorised access with intent to impair
Furthermore, the law states that it is an offence to dishonestly access a closed computer system, even if no activity is carried out once the system has been breached.
Depending on the seriousness of the charge, an individual found guilty of committing offences under CMA 1990 can face a minimum of two years in prison to the maximum of a life sentence. The court may also impose a fine in addition to time in prison. Bearing in mind the strict punishments, it is strongly recommended that individuals charged with this offence seek legal assistance from highly experienced fraud solicitors, such as our team here at Wheldon Law. With the benefit of expert legal advice, offenders can determine the steps they need to take to defend themselves and overturn the charges.
Advance fee fraud
This offence is committed when someone pays money in advance for goods or services that the provider has no intention of providing. These offences are commonplace on the internet. Advance fee fraud has many types and classifications. Here are some of the most common:
- 419 Fraud – commonly known as West African Letter Fraud, this type of fraud occurs when the victim is persuaded to send a fraudster a “transaction fee” or “legal fee” to facilitate the transfer of a considerable sum of money. In most cases, the fraudster will pretend to be a person in a position of authority, such as a prince or a high-ranking government official, and make the victim keep their transaction details a secret.
- Dating Scams – with this type of fraud, the victim joins an online dating site and is then contacted by an individual who pretends to be romantically interested in them. After gaining the victim’s trust, the fraudster will claim that they are in financial trouble and ask their “romantic interest” to send them some money.
- Rental Fraud – this scheme involves a “landlord” asking a potential tenant to pay a fee upfront to secure the property. However, the property in question is either non-existent or is already occupied by another tenant.
- Loan Scam – this scheme usually targets people with a poor credit score. The victim, who is approved for a fast loan regardless of their credit history, is asked to pay a “transaction fee” or “insurance fee” before the lender will release the money. Once the fee has been settled, the lender disappears along with the loan the victim is supposed to receive.
An advance fee fraud conviction carries a prison sentence of up to ten years. In some cases, the court may also impose a fine and the police may search an individual’s home and seize or freeze their assets. Because the punishment can be distressing for the individual concerned and their family, it is crucial that they utilise the services of fraud solicitors who will have a good understanding of their case.
Value Added Tax (VAT) is the amount of tax paid on UK goods or services that are classified as “taxable supply”. When a taxable individual (e.g., a business owner) fails to pay the amount of VAT they owe to the government, they are committing VAT fraud or evasion.
VAT fraud charges can be brought under either s72 of the Value Added Tax Act 1974 or the Fraud Act 2006. These cases usually involve a business not paying enough VAT, reclaiming too much VAT or falsifying accounts to avoid paying VAT or to reduce their liability. According to HMRC, VAT fraud is the simplest and most common type of tax fraud committed in the UK.
HMRC is the agency that usually handles VAT fraud cases. For cases that involve VAT and VAT credits, the penalty is a fine equivalent to 100% of the amount of tax evaded. For VAT fraud cases that involve refunds and repayments, the convicted individual is required to pay the aggregate of the amount of overstated input tax and understated output tax.
If the VAT fraud charge meets one of the criteria for a criminal prosecution, HMRC will move to bring the proceedings to a criminal court. Anyone found guilty of committing intentional VAT evasion will face a maximum penalty of seven years in prison and be required to pay an unlimited fine.
As the penalties for VAT fraud are strict and financially damaging, it is vital that expert legal representation is sought. Not only will this enable offenders to defend themselves against the charge, but it can also help ensure that their business will be protected.
An offence of false accounting is committed if someone intentionally falsified, alters or submits false, inaccurate or deceptive records for accounting purposes. This can involve manipulating tax or VAT records to make it appear that a company’s performance is stronger than it actually is. It may also apply to the falsification or alteration of records or documents to secure a business loan or grant.
False accounting carries serious consequences, including the potential loss of one’s business and reputation. If a business owner is convicted in a Magistrates’ Court, they will face a maximum penalty of six months in prison, a fine or both. Meanwhile, a conviction in the Crown Court may result in a maximum sentence of seven years in prison, a fine or both. If the convicted individual happens to be a company official, they can be barred from becoming a director.
For this reason, anyone charged with this offence should immediately enlist the services of a fraud lawyer well-versed in handling false accounting cases. Because investigations into false accounting can be complicated, having access to expert legal advice can enable offenders to avoid making any unnecessary errors and misjudgements.
It is an offence to travel on the railways without a valid ticket that covers your entire journey. If you are stopped by a ticket inspector, it is a matter for their discretion whether you are reported for prosecution or offered a penalty fare. If they opt for the latter course of action, you will be required to pay the fare plus an additional amount by way of a penalty. However, increasingly, offenders are being prosecuted. Nevertheless, it is sometimes possible to challenge this decision and reach an out of court settlement, thus avoiding a criminal record and the stress of having to appear in court. The assistance of highly experienced fraud lawyers is certainly a great help in this type of case.
Obtain the Legal Assistance You Need
If you have been charged with any type of fraud, it is imperative that you act quickly and seek legal assistance as soon as possible. In this way, you can avoid taking steps or making decisions that could exacerbate the problem. Fortunately, at Wheldon Law, our team of highly experienced solicitors will be more than willing to lend a helping hand. We possess a wealth of expertise and experience in this complex area of law. Having handled some of the most challenging fraud and criminal law cases, we trust in our ability to provide our clients with the legal advice and services they need to defend themselves and protect their family, investments and reputation.