Being a victim of fraud can be a humiliating experience.
Fraud happens when you trust the representations that a person or business makes to you, and that representation turns out to be false. It is a personal type of harm done to you or your business that can cause financial, emotional and, at times, even physical harm.
While a number of things go into proving fraud in an unfair business practices lawsuit, there are a few key indicators that you may have a claim for fraud under Florida law:
- There was a false statement of a material fact;
- The person making that statement knew it was false;
- That person intended you to act on their false representation; and
- You were damaged.
Fraud comes in many forms. In fact, a literal false statement isn’t even necessary: By not telling someone something, you could be committing fraud by omission. For example, if a seller knows that termites ruined the wood in their house, then not telling a buyer about them could be fraud by omission. Fraud also includes fraudulent business records, check fraud, payroll fraud, falsified receipts and invoices, falsified transactions, fraudulent real estate documents, fraudulent inducement into contract, internet sales fraud, stockbroker fraud, bank fraud, auto fraud, website misrepresentation, work-from-home scams, pyramid schemes, identity theft, merchant account fraud, and credit card fraud.
Four types of fraud that are particularly prevalent in Florida today are financial fraud, health care and Medicare fraud, and fraud on the elderly. There are two different types of claims you can bring for some of these frauds. First, you can bring a claim as a consumer under the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act if you have been unfairly deceived by a business. Second, you can bring a whistleblower or qui tam claim if you know of a fraud or misuse of Florida or U.S. government property or money. These claims are called qui tam claims or whistleblower claims. You can get money for reporting these to the government. However, there are special procedures you have to follow to be able to get an award for reporting the fraud. We can help you navigate those steps.
Financial fraud runs rampant in Florida. If you’ve lived here for any amount of time, you’ve most likely heard of the many Ponzi schemes that take advantage of unwitting Florida residents. For example, there was the Scott Rothstein law firm Ponzi scheme in South Florida and the Woodbridge Group of Companies real estate Ponzi scheme in which a Miami court granted $1 billion in penalties and disgorgement. The similarity in all these Ponzi schemes is that the fraudster promises large, too-good-to-be-true returns on money. Then, once a consumer invests, they take most of the money and use the remainder to pay off prior investors. That’s why it is important to do background checks on any investment group, including doing a BrokerCheck provided by FINRA. You can also look at the Investment Adviser Public Disclosure from the SEC or Florida disclosures.
Sometimes, the only way an unfair business practices lawyer can help a client recover losses from a Ponzi scheme is to sue the bank for aiding and abetting the fraud or by instituting what is called a claw-back action, which attempts to recover the funds that were used to pay off prior investors.
Health Care and Medicare Fraud
Health care and Medicare fraud are also widespread in Florida, due to the large number of retirees that make up the state’s population. Every day, the newspapers are full of articles about people being convicted of defrauding the health care system or taking advantage of our Medicare system. For example, a federal jury convicted a Florida health care executive of what prosecutors described as $1 billion in Medicare fraud schemes, as reported by the Associated Press. According to the article, he was allegedly paying kickbacks and bribes to doctors, so they would refer patients to his business.
If you are aware of this or any other type of fraud, whether you are the victim yourself or not, then you may be able to sue for unfair business practices resulting from fraud. Even if you were not the victim yourself, there are often monetary rewards for reporting these claims. This is called a whistleblower claim, and there are very specific steps you must follow in order to bring the claim. Contact our unfair business practices lawyers today to learn more about how we can help you if you have discovered a fraudulent scheme. Click here to learn more about whistleblower and qui tam claims.
The elderly are particularly targeted by fraudsters, and they often are the most harmed. If you have been injured by someone making false representations, you can contact our unfair business practices lawyers to help get the legal advice you need. You can also call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline and look at their website for more help. According to AARP, common signs of fraud include:
- Receiving a call asking for money or personal information like your social security number
- Finding unauthorized charges on your credit card
- Getting an email or call saying you won a sweepstakes that you don’t recall entering
If you are aware of nursing home or other types of fraud or misrepresentations relating to the treatment and care of elderly people, you should contact us. You may be able to file an unfair business practices lawsuit regardless of whether you are the victim yourself.
Fraud is such a problem in Florida that Florida’s Chief Financial Officer set up a website to help protect people from fraud, including peer-to-peer payment service scams, Medicare scams, social security imposter scams, vacation property scams, moving scams, investment scams, Facebook Messenger scams, IRS scams, tax identity theft scams, fake debt collector call scams, lottery scams, government grant scams, identify theft, and many more.
It is important to remember that fraud is not just a criminal act. You also have civil claims against the fraudster as well. If you’ve been the victim of fraud—no matter what type—act fast and retain an experienced unfair business practices lawyer who can help you make sure you collect your defrauded money as quickly as possible.Back to Unfair Business Practices