15th November 2018
According to recent statistics one in ten people will fall victim to fraud, with online identity theft being one of the biggest problems. Being the victim of fraud can not only leave you out of pocket but also emotionally distressed. Seeing those responsible brought to justice and recovering what you are owed are important steps in helping you to deal with what has happened.
Tim Newsome, solicitor and civil litigation specialist with Myers & Co Solicitors in Stoke-on-Trent explains your options.
Incidents of fraud should be reported to the UK’s national fraud and cybercrime reporting team via the ActionFraud website. They should also be reported to the police.
Fraud committed using your credit card, or through your bank account, must be reported to your credit card provider or bank as appropriate.
Fraudulent land transactions should be reported to the Land Registry and, where money has been diverted during the sale or purchase of property, the solicitor handling the conveying must also be informed as well.
Fraud committed by professionals, such as solicitors, accountants, surveyors or financial advisors, must be reported to their employer and to their regulatory body.
Reported incidents of fraud will usually be investigated and, where those responsible can be identified, a criminal prosecution may be brought. If this happens it is important that you co-operate with the investigation and provide any information requested. You may also be asked to provide evidence at court, and support is available to help you through the process.
Normally a criminal prosecution will be brought by the Crown Prosecution Service at the request of the police and will be funded by the government. However, it is also possible for you to bring a private prosecution if the Crown Prosecution Service are reluctant to act. There will be costs associated with doing this and therefore specialist legal advice should be sought.
Depending on the facts of the case, you may be eligible for compensation for any loss or damage you have suffered. This may be via the criminal courts or by you making a claim through the civil courts, for example to recover losses incurred as a result of a family member of friend forging your signature on a document.
Before making a civil claim, it is important to consider what you are likely to gain. This includes investigating how much money the fraudster has and
the ease with which you could get hold of this if the court ordered a payment in your favour. The benefits of taking action need to be weighed against the likely costs you will incur in pursuing the case through the courts, although bear in mind that if you are successful you may ultimately get some of these costs back. In limited cases, legal aid may be available to help.
For fraud committed using your credit card, you may be able to get some or all of your money back from the credit card provider under consumer protection laws. There are limits on the amount that can be recovered and there may be an excess payable.
For fraud committed using your bank account, it might be possible to claim a refund from the bank, particularly if you have done everything you can to protect yourself from fraud or if mistakes made by the bank contributed to what happened. For example, if the bank failed to carry out appropriate identity checks on an individual who made in-branch withdrawals from your account.
Some insurance policies include cover for monies lost through fraud, theft or dishonesty, so it is worth checking to see whether you may be able to get some of your money back this way.
If you were defrauded by an individual or organisation regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority or the Prudential Regulation Authority, then it may be possible to claim compensation through them. This may apply if the fraud against you was committed by an independent financial advisor or investment business.
It may also be possible to seek compensation from a regulatory body where the fraudster was subject to a regulatory regime. For example, fraud committed by a solicitor will usually be covered the Solicitors Regulation Authority compensation fund, where not otherwise covered by insurance.
The likelihood of you falling victim to certain types of fraud can be significantly reduced if you ask a solicitor to act for you. For example, mortgage fraud often occurs where someone applies for a mortgage over a property you own but without your consent. Asking your solicitor to ensure that your property is registered with the Land Registry, that you are signed up to receive property alerts and that a restriction is placed on the property ownership register, will all help to reduce the likelihood of attempted mortgage fraud succeeding. Likewise, the risk of you being scammed by a friend or business associate who asks you to lend them money or invest in some sort of scheme, will be reduced if your solicitor checks the details first and vets any proposed contract documentation.
The contents of this article are for the purposes of general awareness only. They do not purport to constitute legal or professional advice. The law may have changed since the article was published.