Most people know that fraud occurs when a person wrongfully obtains money, property, or other benefits by deceit, i.e., by misrepresenting facts (lying) or not disclosing information that should be disclosed.
Consider this example. You are interested in an SUV for sale by a private seller (not a car dealer) in an online marketplace, so you make an appointment to test drive the vehicle. You like it and the price is fair. You ask the seller if there are any mechanical problems and she says no. However, two days later the SUV won’t go into gear and you discover it needs a new transmission, which will cost at least a thousand dollars.
If the seller in that example was aware of the transmission issue when she told you there were no mechanical problems, she lied and committed fraud and you can sue her for, at a minimum, the cost of replacing the SUV’s transmission.
If you didn’t ask her if there were any mechanical problems but she was aware of the transmission issue and didn’t tell you, she also committed fraud because that is information any reasonable person would know you needed to have to decide whether or not to buy the SUV. (In the example, you obviously wouldn’t buy it.)
The problem you would have in a situation like that is proving the seller knew about the transmission problem, which she would be certain to deny knowing about, truthfully or otherwise. If she didn’t know about it, she didn’t defraud you because intent (doing or not doing something on purpose) is necessary for fraud to have taken place.
If the loss you suffered is large enough, you would certainly want to consult with a Fraud Lawyer before just giving up because you think you could never prove (in the example) that the seller knew about the faulty transmission. A Fraud Lawyer might recommend, for example, hiring a private investigator to determine if the seller had visited any local vehicle repair shops in the area and, if so, whether or not she had been given an estimate to replace the transmission. That would certainly be the evidence you needed to prove fraud.
Whether you are the buyer or seller in the SUV example, you may very well require a Fraud Lawyer. The seller may have a defence if, for example, one of the reasons you bought the SUV was its price was $1,500 less than the price of all comparable vehicles for sale in the online marketplace. If the cost of replacing the transmission was only $1,000 and you didn’t ask about the vehicle’s mechanical fitness, an obligation to disclose a material fact may be found by a judge not to have existed. (If you did ask, however, the lower price would not excuse an outright lie.)
It is possible you might find yourself needing a Fraud Lawyer when you have not done anything wrong. Perhaps you purchase a pre-owned luxury watch and decide to sell it a couple of years later. If you do and the watch turns out to be a fake, the buyer will almost certainly seek compensation from you. It is not difficult to see how things can get complicated quite quickly in a situation like that.
Fraud Law in the examples above is a subcategory of Civil Litigation Law. Therefore, you may seek the assistance of either a Civil Litigator who identifies as a Fraud Lawyer because by identifying as such, the lawyer is indicating he or she has particular knowledge and experience in the area. However, you can also speak with a Civil Litigation Lawyer because almost all will have handled fraud claims or defences from time to time.
Fraud is also a criminal offence. If you are accused of a fraud-related crime, you require the assistance of a Criminal Lawyer, almost all of whom will have experience defending against fraud charges because fraud, along with drug infractions, makes up a large proportion of the criminal charges laid each year.