Fraudulent behaviour can encompass any one of a number of things including theft of identity or objects, misrepresentations, misstatements and mistruths. Commonly however, it involves someone who has dishonestly stolen your money or assets. The question is, who should you contact first if you feel you are the victim of fraud?
Reacquisition of stolen property as fast as possible is the most important priority. There are a couple of considerations to keep in mind to ensure you maximise your chances of success.
Naturally, your first thoughts might be to go to the police. In many respects the matter will be a criminal one that warrants their attention. This may not, however, be the best or fastest solution for recovering your money or property, and the speed with which you act after discovering fraudulent behaviour is critical.
Police investigations are time consuming and can extend over months or even years, by which time your assets could well have dissipated or disappeared. Further to that, if a civil and criminal case are proceeding concurrently, it is likely that the civil case will be stayed while the criminal case proceeds, costing more time and potentially more money. Finally, the burden of proof in a civil case is significantly lower than that of a criminal case (‘on the balance of probabilities’ versus ‘beyond reasonable doubt’) which raises the chances of a successful result. There is no statute of limitations on criminal fraud charges, meaning there is ample time to bring a criminal action further down the track.
Beyond immediately freezing your assets and taking action with financial institutions to prevent further loss, the best course of action in the first instance is to contact a lawyer to assess your position and whether proceeding civilly or criminally will yield you the best result. Before meeting with a lawyer, ensure that you have copies of all relevant documents to hand to ensure you receive timely and considered legal advice.
As mentioned, it may be entirely appropriate for a case of fraud to be a criminal and police matter, but contacting your lawyer as quickly as possible in the first instance will give you insight into whether a civil action will be the best first move at trying to recover your stolen assets.
For more information on fraud, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 1300 FNQ LAW.