The precise legal definition of criminal fraud may vary somewhat by jurisdiction. As a rule, however, criminal fraud involves a deceptive act perpetrated on a victim which was done for personal or financial gain. Although many acts may involve deception, what usually makes a deceptive act an act of criminal fraud is the motive, or intention, behind the act.
The list of possible types of criminal fraud is almost endless. Among the more common types of criminal fraud are benefit fraud, counterfeiting, and embezzlement, as well as tax and insurance fraud. With the advent of the digital age, fraud committed through electronic means, such as the internet, wire, or telephone, have become more common.
Benefit fraud is committed when a person applies for a government benefit, such as food stamps or cash assistance, and is deceptive on the application or fails to report important information once he or she is approved for benefits. Commonly referred to as "welfare fraud," fraud associated with government benefits is a fairly large problem in the United States. Penalties vary by state, however, in each state, an applicant or recipient can face jail time if convicted of welfare fraud.
Counterfeiting generally refers to reproducing or copying legal tender. Once a perpetrator actually passes off the bills in exchange for something of value, he or she has committed fraud in most cases. Embezzlement can often be considered fraud when the embezzler uses a deceptive or illegal act in order to transfer or steal money that does not belong to him or her.
Tax fraud is also a common form of fraud in many jurisdictions. When a taxpayer fails to report income, or claims a deduction or dependent when not entitled to, he or she is committing criminal fraud. Likewise, insurance fraud is committed on a wide-scale basis in the United States. Insurance fraud can be committed in a number of ways, such as making a claim for damage that was created by the policyholder himself or herself, claiming a loss that never happened or claiming injuries that do not exist.