Fraud Offences and Their Maximum Penalties
The Fraud Act 2006 defines fraud as a crime that falls into one or more of three separate categories. The first is fraud by false representation, where a person “dishonestly makes a false representation, and intends, by making the representation, to make a gain for himself or another, or to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss”.
The second is fraud by failing to disclose information, where a person “dishonestly fails to disclose to another person information which he is under a legal duty to disclose and intends, by failing to disclose the information, to make a gain for himself or another, or to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss and fraud by abuse of position”.
The third is fraud by abuse of position, where a person “occupies a position in which he is expected to safeguard, or not to act against, the financial interests of another person [but] dishonestly abuses that position and intends, by means of the abuse of that position, to make a gain for himself or another, or to cause loss to another or to expose another to a risk of loss.”
In 2009, the Sentencing Guidelines Council divided the field still further, introducing five definitive types of fraud, including confidence fraud, banking, insurance and credit fraud and benefit fraud.
So what is the maximum prison sentence for committing fraud? What are the other types of punishment a convicted fraudster may receive? The answers depend on the type of offence involved. For example, if you are accused of a smaller scale, one-off case of confidence fraud, it’s likely that you will receive a lighter punishment than someone who has been found guilty of multiple cases of serious benefit fraud.
The specialist solicitors at DPP Law know how important it is for members of the public to understand the implications of an accusation of fraud, so we have created this article to further explain the main fraud offences and maximum penalties that relate to them.
Maximum Penalties for Fraud by Type
This offence involves a perpetrator winning the confidence of a victim in order to defraud them through deception.
Confidence fraud may involve advance fee scams – whereby the perpetrator requests upfront payment for goods, services or the transfer of funds. They then abscond with the amount that was paid in advance and do not fulfil the transaction. “419” scams are a part of this category; here, the “scammer” usually asks the victim to help them by paying a fee that will serve to release “trapped” funds – often some form of inheritance – into their account. The victim will be offered a portion of the sizable amount that the perpetrator is supposedly trying to access. However, their “reward” will never be paid.
Foreign lottery scams and bogus charities are also fairly common methods of confidence fraud. The first involves the scammer asking for personal information and bank details in order to “claim winnings” from an overseas lottery draw (this information will then be used to withdraw money from the victim’s account or to commit identity theft). The second involves the perpetrator approaching the victim and asking them to donate to a charity that does not exist. Once bank details are handed over, the scammer will go about draining the account.
Confidence fraud offences: maximum penalties
If you are charged with fraud offences of this kind under the Fraud Act 2006, you may face up to a 10 year custodial sentence. False accounting can also be tried under the Theft Act 1968, which may result in a maximum of 7 years’ imprisonment.
It’s rare that sentences of this length are handed down; usually, only the most serious instances of fraud are punished in this way. Large scale cases of confidence fraud, where multiple victims are targeted and the perpetrators have benefitted to the tune of over £500,000, are the most likely to result in the maximum sentence possible.
Fraud offences resulting in victims losing between £20,000 and £100,000 will most commonly see those convicted facing up to 4 years behind bars.
If you are found guilty of fraud in a “one-off” case – deemed less serious – you’re more likely to face a community-based sentence or, in the worst case, six months’ imprisonment. However, if a very vulnerable victim has been targeted, or if the amount of money involved is particularly large, this may be increased to 18 months.
Banking, insurance and credit fraud
These fraud offences usually involve the perpetrator supplying false details in order to achieve a financial benefit. This may include falsely obtaining a mortgage, claiming on insurance or obtaining goods using a fraudulent credit card.
These offences are usually charged under the Fraud Act, with maximum sentences reaching 10 years in prison.
If the planning or undertaking of this type of fraud has taken place over a significant length of time, or if the financial gain involved is in excess of £500,000, sentences are more likely to reach between 4 and 7 years behind bars. Sentences for offences involving less £100,000 worth of defrauded funds are likely to be still shorter.
If you have only been convicted of a single case of fraud, or if the approach involved was deemed to be unsophisticated or unplanned, you will most likely face a community order or fine.
Benefit fraud Penalties
There are a wide range of types of benefit fraud, from sophisticated criminal rings claiming thousands’ worth of excess funds, to individuals who have neglected to keep authorities updated on a change of circumstances that would otherwise lead to a reduction in their benefits.
Depending on the nature of the alleged offence, a sentencing judge will usually treat defendants in very different ways.
Convictions of high-value fraud that has been meticulously planned may see the perpetrators jailed for between 7 and 10 years maximum, depending on whether they are jailed under the Fraud Act or the Theft Act. More commonly, however, sentences of between 2 and 7 years are handed down for offences of this kind.
If only one fraudulent claim was made, or if the perpetrator has defrauded the benefit system of less than £20,000, it is most likely that they will be handed a community order or a fine. However, they may still be jailed if it is proved that fraud has continued over a long period.
Whether you have been accused of confidence fraud, banking, insurance or credit fraud or benefit fraud, the potential maximum sentences are all equally severe. In the worst case, you may face a decade in prison – which is why you should obtain legal advice and representation from trusted specialist solicitors as soon as possible.
DPP Law has been successfully representing clients facing fraud allegations for more than 30 years. Get in touch with us today on 0333 200 5859 or email us using our quick online contact form, and we will be very happy to provide the help and advice you require.