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The work of fraud attorneys is broad and diverse but always centers on interpreting and applying fraud laws. Nearly every jurisdiction has laws that prevent and punish fraud in a variety of settings. Insurance fraud, tax fraud, securities fraud and commercial fraud are just a few of the more popular fraud laws. The job of a fraud attorney is to learn those laws, understand their application, and represent parties who are affected by them.
There is no single job description for “fraud attorney,” since much of the job depends on the contours of the attorney’s individual work. It is very rare for a lawyer to hold himself out as a general fraud attorney. Fraud attorneys typically limit their practices to a specific subset of fraud. By focusing on a single area, the lawyer can become an expert in a certain kind of fraud and can provide better representation to clients in that sector.
Fraud attorneys can be broken into three main groups: those who help draft and enforce the fraud laws, those who represent individuals and corporations who have been defrauded, and those who represent individuals and corporations accused of fraud. The first and third categories are more common. In most cases, consumers who feel they have been defrauded can launch institutional actions that do not require the assistance of an attorney. Many banks, corporations, and other consumer-facing organizations have fraud departments dedicated to representing and resolving any allegations of fraud. Some fraud department staff are lawyers, but most are not.
The attorneys who help draft and enforce fraud laws usually work for national or local-level governments. A big part of their work is usually making sure that all fraud laws are as up-to-date as possible. This may involve conducting research, monitoring allegations of fraud, and keeping abreast of how changes in technology are impacting fraudulent practices.
A government fraud lawyer usually also has an investigative component to his or her job. Attorneys in this capacity will often follow up on consumer complaints and keep track of fraud reports issued by corporations and banking institutions. When warranted, fraud lawyers will build cases against alleged fraudsters. They head up fraud prosecutions, managing trials and representing the government’s interests in court.
Each person or entity prosecuted for fraud usually brings individual representation. In most cases, it is a defense-oriented fraud attorney who does this representing. This kind of fraud attorney uses the fraud laws to argue that the defendant is not liable, had no fault, or cannot properly be prosecuted for some reason.
Fraud defense lawyers, like most other fraud lawyers, focus their practice on a certain kind of fraud. A credit card fraud attorney, for instance, will spend most of his time evaluating the strengths or weaknesses of cases against alleged ID thieves or credit card scam artists. In the same way, an insurance fraud attorney will defend those accused of selling fraudulent insurance packages, and a mortgage fraud attorney will represent brokers who are alleged to have orchestrated mortgage schemes or set interest rates that defrauded clients or extorted money.
Depending on the nature of the case, the victims of fraud do not usually appear in court. Most of the time, the costs of mounting a lawsuit far outweigh the amount of money that was lost. Financial fraud can typically be dealt with by the associated bank or credit card company’s fraud department for no cost. Similarly, individuals who are victims of insurance or other fraud need only report this fraud to their government consumer protection agency, then wait for the attorneys there to investigate or prosecute the case. Some lawyers will mount fraud-related lawsuits on behalf of individuals, but this is uncommon.