In general terms, fraud is an intentional deception, whether by omission or commission, to realize a gain. Under common law, fraud includes four essential elements:
- A material false statement
- Knowledge that the statement was false when it was spoken
- Reliance on the false statement by the victim
- Damages resulting from the victim’s reliance on the false statement
In the broadest sense, fraud can encompass any act for gain that uses deception as its principle technique. This deception is implemented through fraud schemes, specific methodologies used to commit and conceal the fraudulent act. The legal definition of fraud is the same, whether the incidence is criminal or civil. The difference is that criminal cases must meet a higher burden of proof.