Q:

What are the penalties if I commit fraud?

A:

Penalties for committing fraud vary depending on the type of fraud. For tax fraud, possible prison time ranges from less than a year to as many as five years, according to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Monetary fines range from less than $100,000 for individuals to as much as $500,000 for corporations.

Many other types of criminal fraud exist, including those relating to credit cards, insurance, mortgages and forgery. Making false statements to the government to secure benefits also constitutes fraud, according to Cornell University Law School. For example, misrepresentation of an individual's identity to collect Social Security benefits illegally can result in fines of up to $10,000 for each instance and prison terms up to five years. Both state and federal laws address various types of fraud, which is typically considered a felony offense and is punishable by jail time, fines or both, according to FindLaw. Certain types of fraud also can result in civil penalties.

In all cases, fraud involves purposeful deception by providing false information for illegal gain, according to Wikipedia. Benefits gained as the result of fraud can be money or something else of value, such as a drivers license secured by providing untrue information. Fraud can be carried out over the phone, through the mail and over the Internet, where difficulties with verifying identities make it relatively easy to steal credit card information.

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