When we transact business, procure goods, and avail of various services, whether from private or public entities, we trust that we are doing it with legitimate enterprises and institutions, as well as with trustworthy and authorised individuals; thus, our actions are largely based on trust, and we believe that the other party is dealing with us in good faith.
But what if we find out that the goods and services we purchased or availed of did not turn out well or did not meet our expectations? What should we do when we discover that we were shortchanged or duped? What if somebody stole our beneficial rights and claim such for their own use and advantage?
In the same manner, what should we do if we are the ones being accused of dishonest conduct and deceptive behavior? Are there legal options and remedies available to us in the event that we are found or alleged to have committed fraudulent activity?
Why people commit fraud is as complex an issue as there are many reasons and ways of doing it. But whatever these reasons are, a dishonest conduct cannot be excused. As an individual or an employee in a private or government institution, when can your actions be considered a fraudulent act? As an organisation, when and how are you committing fraud?
Fraud is generally defined as obtaining money, property, goods, and services that do not belong to you and using such for your own benefit or for the benefit of others. The operative words that characterise the commitment of fraud are dishonest, deceptive, unethical, and corrupt behaviour. The act must be intentional or reckless. In other words, one is fully aware of their intention to commit the deception against an individual or organisation by taking advantage of the absence of controls and safeguards that may prevent it from happening.
In Australia, the offences considered as general fraud include acts of dishonesty to obtain Commonwealth benefit programs (childcare, Medicare, aged care, and the like), as well as violations against the tax system, such as filing erroneous and false tax refunds. General dishonesty is in violation of Section 134 of the Criminal Code where the offender who obtains gains or causes losses may get a maximum ten-year imprisonment whilst the deception to obtain financial gain under Section 135 can get one a maximum sentence of five years imprisonment.
The most common fraud offence is when you willfully and knowingly commit dishonesty or deceive another person or organisation to obtain financial or any other form of gain. The circumstances on how it was done may determine the nature and severity of the offence, which will likewise be considered in determining the corresponding penalties. The simpler or most common offences are those committed against individuals; they are considered light offences and may be slapped with fines as penalties. On the other hand, large-scale fraud may include those committed against the Commonwealth such as tax fraud and Centrelink claims scams.
Such offences can be linked to identity crimes, such as the misuse of personal information, which leads to financial losses. This is also the most common fraud offence, which is not surprising as the advent of technology and the Internet has made criminal acts easy for those who commit cybercrimes. Unauthorised access to personal and vital information about a person can be performed by any individual or even a syndicate of organised criminals who are tech savvy or have the advantage of having the latest information and communication technologies.
Fraud can be costly. Financial losses to individuals who fall victims to fraud and dishonest offences run in billions of dollars. In addition, the private businesses and government agencies that are involved in fraud scandals are likely to suffer the loss of integrity and their clients’ confidence. Running after offenders also cause the government substantial costs, especially in pursuing high profile cases that involve international interests and issues.
Under the Australian prosecution policy, the prosecution of fraud offences may proceed only if the case satisfies two conditions: 1) that there are sufficient evidence and substantial witnesses who can be presented in court, and 2) that the facts of the case and the circumstances surrounding it are significant and material in upholding public interest.
An individual or an employee/official representing an organisation being charged with fraud can face serious consequences. Charges can take a complex route, which may be hard for ordinary people to handle. If it becomes difficult to defend yourself against the charges, you have to acquire the help of a legal adviser or lawyer who has the expertise and experience in handling fraud cases.
The lawyer may work for the dismissal of the case filed against you so that prosecution will no longer proceed. On the other hand, if the case is already in court, his or her goal would be to get an acquittal. In the event that your option is to plead guilty, your lawyer can work a plea bargain to minimise your penalty by doing the following: getting the charges downgraded to a less serious offence; merging charges if there are several filed against you; negotiating with the offended party for a repayment agreement; helping you organise your character references; and preparing your case thoroughly, making it ready for presentation in court and for persuading the jury to decide on an outcome that would be most beneficial to you.
If you need the services of a legal expert to handle your case and obtain a positive outcome in your favor, contact our team today. Our competent and experienced lawyers can help you deal with the fraud charges filed against you or with filing a case against someone who has wronged you. The earlier you can discuss your case with us, the better we can strategise and prepare your case.
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