Federal law enforcement professionals are concerned about victims and witnesses of financial crimes. As a victim or witness, you probably have questions about how a case will be investigated, what services and information will be available to you, and how you can begin to cope with your financial losses. This brochure was designed to provide general information to answer common concerns.
How Will I Obtain Information?
Federal crime victims have a number of rights during their participation in the criminal justice system. If you ask to be kept informed about the status the case, you may either receive periodic updates, or you may contact the case agent or agency's Victim/Witness Coordinator (Coordinator) on an ongoing basis. These names are listed at the end of this brochure.
It Is Very Important to Report Any Address Changes During an Investigation and/or Prosecution.
Even though the months ahead may be difficult for you and your family, your assistance is important to ensure that justice is fully achieved. The investigation of a possible financial crime is complex and may involve several law enforcement agencies. In regards to the criminal justice process, all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a criminal court.
Investigations may involve hundreds of victims in one case. During the investigation process, the case agent/Coordinator will remain your principle contact. If you remember anything additional, or learn of additional information about the crime, contact the case agent. Your rights during an investigation include:
Information on the status of the investigation, to the extent that it is appropriate and does not interfere with the investigation;
Notification of the arrest of an accused suspect or notice if prosecution is declined;
Information on resources, compensation and possible restitution;
Information on the procedure to request that any property held as evidence is returned after a defendant's case is closed.
If a case is accepted for prosecution federally, you should be contacted by the U. S. Attorney's Office. Each Office has a Coordinator to serve as your liaison throughout the process, to answer questions about the status of a case, and to assist with victim concerns. Some rights may only be available if a case is accepted for prosecution.
Once a case is indicted, you have the right to information about the continuing status of a case. This includes information about providing a victim impact statement, requesting restitution and information about a defendant's release from prison.
What Can I Do About Financial Losses?
Collect and save all paperwork that directly relates to your loss. If an arrest is made and a conviction is obtained, the judge will consider requiring the offender to pay you for certain losses (called restitution). You may be asked to provide verification of your loss amount.
In addition, some losses may be tax deductible. Because tax laws are complicated, consult a qualified tax advisor or the Internal Revenue Service to see if your losses qualify.
Finally, if you believe the fraud perpetrator has assets, you may be able to recover losses through a civil lawsuit. Contact your state or local Bar Association for the names of attorneys who specialize in this area of law to determine if your case is appropriate for civil action. Another remedy may be with the Small Claims Court for the county in which the crime occurred.
Will I Get My Money Back?
Many victims want to know if they will get their money back, through restitution. Restitution is an order by the sentencing judge, ordering a convicted defendant to pay identified victims for certain losses as a result of the crime. In many types of federal crimes, it is mandatory for a convicted defendant to pay restitution. Unfortunately, as a practical matter, a convicted defendant who has no money or limited potential to make money may be unlikely to ever make meaningful restitution, particularly in fraud cases with many victims.
However, the federal government will work earnestly to ensure that any assets owned by a sentenced defendant, can be considered for payment of court-ordered restitution. An order of restitution is enforceable for twenty years, from the time a criminal judgment requiring restitution is filed (plus the time incarcerated).
If You Are Threatened or Harassed
Your safety is important to us. It may be helpful to know that threats or retaliation against a victim or potential witness are very rare. However, if you receive harassing or other improper phone calls, mail, or actions from anyone as a result of your participation in the investigation of your case, contact your local police and/or the case agent immediately.
Federal law provides for extra penalties for harassment or other threats against victims and witnesses. The case agent will discuss protective measures, if necessary.
What Can I Do to Address Financial or Credit Problems?
Some victims have financial losses which are so severe that they are unable to meet current financial obligations. If identification or financial information was stolen, credit may be affected, which may impact your immediate financial dealings. In both of these situations, consider these options:
Contact creditors and/or a nonprofit credit counseling service, who may work with you to reduce or modify your payments, or work with you to limit access to your accounts.
Submit a written statement to local and national credit reporting agencies about your victimization. Provide supporting documents such as a copy of the criminal judgment.
Be alert. Many fraud artists contact victims claiming they can help recover your losses for a fee, or may sell your name to others committing fraud scams. If called, contact the case agent or one of the agencies listed to verify the company's legitimacy.
Why Do I Feel the Way I Do?
Victims of financial crime may experience varying degrees of emotional trauma after a financial crime is discovered. You may feel some or all of the following:
Anger, resentment, or a sense of betrayal toward an offender.
Frustration with criminal justice professionals, or at the delay in the investigation or prosecution.
Shame, embarrassment, depression and guilt if you feel your actions contributed to your victimization; difficulty trusting others.
Fear for your financial security and ability to provide for your family. In cases of identity fraud, concern that important financial information may continue to be illegally used.
It Is Important to Realize That These Are Normal Reactions to a Crime. Some victims find it helpful to seek the services of a counseling professional, clergy member, or advocacy organization. Contact the Coordinator for help in locating services, if needed.
Victims of Federal Crimes Have the Following Rights: (42 U.S.C. Section 10606(b))
The right to be treated with fairness and with respect for the victim's dignity and privacy.
The right to be reasonably protected from the accused offender.
The right to be notified of court proceedings.
The right to be present at all public Court proceedings related to the offense, unless the Court determines that testimony by a victim would be materially affected if avictim heard other testimony at trial.
The right to confer with the prosecutor.
The right to restitution, if a defendant is convicted.
The right to receive information on the conviction, sentencing, imprisonment and the release of an offender.
Resources and Referrals
Community Elder Care Locator National hotline locates local programs in many communities to assist elders - 800-677-1116
National Foundation for Consumer Credit. Free, confidential debt management assistance. www.nfcc.org
Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA)- Gives legal referrals to California victims of immigration fraud - 888-624-4752
Local Legal Aide, Senior Community Center Legal Programs, and Family Services Centers may also provide victim assistance, especially if your income is limited. Check with your local directory information telephone services for information for each community.
Contact the agencies listed below to have your name removed from many mailing and phone lists (telemarketing). Be aware this will not stop the illegal telemarketing scams.
Direct Marketing Assn.
PO Box 9008
Farmingdale, NY 11735
Direct Marketing Assn.
PO Box 9014
Farmingdale, NY 11735
For Victims of Identity Theft
The Federal Trade Commission recommends victims take several actions immediately.
First contact the fraud departments of each of the three credit bureaus. Tell them to flag your credit file with a fraud alert including a statement that creditors should contact you for permission before they open any new accounts in your name. If checks are involved, contact your bank and consider closing any accounts in which checks have been fraudulently used. Order copies of your credit report to check for accuracy.
Second, contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Follow up with a letter documenting the fraud.
Third, file a police report. In many states, identity theft is a crime. File a police report to document the theft and keep the information so that creditors have proof that the crime was reported.
Fourth, contact the Federal Trade Commission to report the crime and obtain other useful information to protect your financial identity.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse - www.privacyrights.org
Federal Trade Commission Clearinghouse - www.consumer.gov/idtheft
Credit Reporting Agencies: Write the following to report credit fraud or dispute information listed.
Equifax - www.equifax.com
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
Experian - www.experian.com
P.O. Box 949,
Allen, TX 75013
Trans Union Corp. - www.transunion.com
P.O. Box 6790,
Fullerton, CA 92834
For fraud involving misuse of Social Security Numbers contact the Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271.
Other National Resources
Internet Fraud Complaint Center: To report fraud on the Internet - www.ic3.gov
National Fraud Information Center: To report telemarketing or Internet fraud - www.fraud.org
National Association of Securities Dealers: Discloses information, complaints on licensed brokers - http://www.finra.org
Medicare Fraud Hotline - 800-447-8477
Securities and Exchange Commission: To file or investigate prior complaints - www.sec.gov
Social Security Fraud Hotline: To report misuse of a social security number, fraud, or forged checks - 800-269-0271
Commodities Futures Trading Commission - www.nfa.futures.org
Reparation fund 202-418-5250
U.S. Postal Service Takes reports of mail crimes - www.usps.gov
State Agencies to Report Fraud
Contact your state Attorney General and/or local police to report most consumer frauds.
California Attorney General Public Inquiry Unit Handles fraud complaints - www.oag.ca.gov
California Department of Corporations:
Mandated to regulate securities, investment advisors, broker-dealers, health care plans - www.dbo.ca.gov
Real Estate Recovery Fund (If you have been a victim of a licensed California real estate broker and have a criminal or civil judgment against this person, the Recovery Fund may provide compensation for some losses.
Use this page to document information about your case:
Victim/Witness Assistance Coordinator:
Assistant U.S. Attorney:
U.S. Attorney Victim/Witness Assistance Program: