Understanding Fraud Offences in Victoria
Several serious crimes in Victoria involve the use of deception to gain property or other financial advantages
In its most basic form, fraud is the use of deceit to obtain the property of another person. In Victoria, several offences come within that general definition. This article will explain the most common fraud offences and the penalties associated with them.
Obtaining property by deception
Section 81 of the Crimes Act is violated when an accused:
- uses deception
- to obtain property belonging to another
- with the intent to permanently deprive the other person of that property.
“Deception” includes the use of words (lies) or conduct (such as impersonation). A deception can relate to facts, law, or to the accused’s present intentions. Deception includes gaining unauthorized access to a computer system or another machine (like an ATM) that requires identification to operate.
The term “dishonestly” recognizes that some persons, like police officers, have lawful authority to deceive others under some circumstances.
“Obtain property” includes gaining ownership, possession, or control of property or transferring it to another person.
Obtaining financial advantage by deception
A related offence specified in section 82 is identical to section 81, except that deception is used to obtain a financial advantage rather than property. That offence would apply to an accused who uses deception to gain unauthorized access to information rather than property and uses that information to gain a financial advantage he or she would not otherwise have.
The maximum penalty for violating either section 81 or 82 is imprisonment of 10 years.
Making false documents
Similar to the offence formerly known as forgery, section 83A of the Crimes Act makes it an offence to:
- make or use a false document or
- make a copy of a document known to be false
- with the intent to induce someone to accept it as genuine
- so that the person will do or refrain from doing some act to that person’s prejudice.
A document is false if it is:
- made to look as if it was made by someone who did not make it, whether that person is real or fictitious;
- made to look as if it was authorized or signed by someone who did not authorize or sign it; or
- a genuine document that was altered without permission of the person who made it.
“Prejudice” means that the person will lose money, property, or a financial advantage, or will lose the opportunity to gain money, property, or a financial advantage.
A related offence created by section 83 prohibits falsifying, concealing, defacing, or destroying accounting records with the intent to gain a financial advantage or to cause a loss to someone else.
A related offence in section 86 prohibits defacing, concealing, or destroying a will or using deception to cause someone else to make or alter a will.
The maximum penalty for violating sections 83, 83A, or 86 is imprisonment of 10 years.