Are You Facing Fraud Charges Related To COVID?
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that fraud related to COVID has resulted in nearly $400 million in costs to Americans in the past couple of years. Seniors found themselves the target of multiple schemes, and people in their 80’s lost an average of $900. You can bet that if you are charged with stealing from Grandma and Grandpa you will not have a very sympathetic jury. That’s why having a dedicated and experienced criminal defense lawyer is so important right now.
The “Fraud Triangle”
Experts note that the pandemic created a ripe situation for what’s known as the Fraud Triangle. It started with economic pressure felt across the country, making people more vulnerable to the promises of better times, and more tempted to improve their situations through fraud in some cases. Economic distress created opportunities for scammers willing to prey on anyone—with targets everywhere because there were so many ways to sell a phony idea or product. The final leg of the fraud triangle is rationalization. As people convince themselves that they deserve something better—what they’re doing isn’t so bad—fraud moves from a simple idea to an illegal act.
Fraudsters are creative; that cannot be understated! Complaints of fraud ran the gamut from consumer reporting and credit complaints to those related to debt collection and those related to identity theft, sometimes to fraudulently claim unemployment benefits. Specifically, this is what we’ve been seeing:
- Identity theft related to stimulus payments;
- Phishing texts and emails;
- Phony posts on Facebook and other social media sites;
- Illicit web domains that plant malware on people’s computers to get passwords etc.;
- Sales of bogus COVID tests;
- Fake surveys about COVID purporting to be from Moderna or other vaccine producers looking for your credit card number;
- Callers who impersonate student loan companies and banks trying to get information;
- Calls claiming to be from the IRS aimed at getting Social Security numbers to steal pandemic aid;
- Sales of cleaners, masks, and other substandard preventative items;
- Robocalls from fake medical sites requesting credit card information for fake test kits;
- Promotion of useless COVID treatments.
Penalties for Fraud
Depending on the level of fraud, a conviction in Florida can result in a 1st degree misdemeanor, punishable by $1,000 in fines and a year behind bars. More serious charges could result in 3rd, 2nd, or 1st , degree felony charges and land you in prison for 30 years with a fine up to $15,000. Felony charges that could put you in prison for 30 years are nothing to take lightly. The amount of restitution, which is basically the out of pocket damages suffered by the victim, could be unlimited, and the repayment of those sums could last for decades.
Your Defense Team Matters
Charges of fraud are serious business and require a serious response. At the Salazar & Kelly Law Group, P.A., our Kissimmee criminal defense lawyers stand ready to put forth a vigorous, well-organized defense on your behalf. To discuss the possibilities, contact our office for a confidential consultation today.