Bank fraud refers to the use of deliberate misrepresentation in order to fraudulently obtain money or other assets that are held by a bank or similar institution. It is distinct from simple bank robbery or theft, because the perpetrator usually commits the fraud in secret, hoping that it will not be noticed until he has had ample time to move on. It usually requires some sort of technical expertise as well. For reasons like this, bank fraud is one of the offenses referred to as white-collar crime.
In most areas of the world, all types of bank fraud are illegal. One of the more prominent types of fraud is known as identity theft, where one person uses another person's private identifying information to obtain money, usually in the form of loans or credit. Somewhat related to identity theft is identity fraud, where credit is obtained by the use of an entirely fictitious identity. While identity theft and similar crimes receive a great deal of publicity, they are far from the only crimes involving bank fraud.
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Fraud involving checks is quite common as well. Forging checks or signatures on them, as well as altering checks that have already been written are two ways in which check fraud is committed. In the case of the latter, it may be as simple as adding a few strokes of a pen to turn a check for $100 US Dollars (USD) into one for $1,000 USD. Another common type of fraud is check kiting. This is any kind of fraud that takes advantage of the fact that funds can be drawn on a deposited check before the money is actually removed from the check writer's account.
Check fraud has a history as long as that of checks themselves. Over the years, security features have been incorporated into many types of checks, especially payroll checks. These include unique watermarks, heat-sensitive ink, and extremely fine printed lettering that is not easily noticed or counterfeited. Technology has placed many barriers in the way of those who would perpetrate bank fraud, but not all fraud can be completely prevented.
One kind of bank fraud that is still hard to detect or stop in time is that which is committed by bank employees themselves. In many cases, these acts are only discovered by careful auditing of the bank's accounting records, months down the road, by which time it is too late to recover lost funds. A complete description of the many possible ways to commit bank fraud would be impossible, but suffice it to say that criminals have gone to great lengths and used remarkable creativity in finding new and different ways to steal and defraud.