The U.S. Attorney’s Office is 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 will answer some common questions.
How Will I Obtain Information?
Federal crime victims have a number of rights during their participation in the criminal justice system. You will receive periodic notices regarding your case status from the Victim Witness Staff.
It is very important to report any address changes!
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, lengthy 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 or even thousands of victims in one case! Therefore, it may take a very long time for your case to make its way through the criminal justice system. 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 crime victim resources, crime victim compensation and possible restitution;
- Information on the procedure to request that any property held as evidence is returned to you at the conclusion of the case.
If a case is accepted for prosecution federally, you should be contacted by the U. S. Attorney's Office’s Victim Witness Staff once formal charges are filed. The Victim Witness Staff serves as your liaison throughout the prosecution process, will provide you notices about the status of a case, will assist you with any concerns, and will provide you information about providing a victim impact statement, the restitution process, and information about a defendant's incarceration status.
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 require the offender to pay you for certain losses (called restitution). You will 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.
Will I Get My Money Back?
Please see our section on Restitution
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. Additionally, your 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 you are called by someone professing ability to help you recover your losses, contact the case agent or the Victim Witness Staff 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 Victim Witness Staff for help in locating services, if needed.
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.
Resources and Referrals
Save and Invest
FINRA - Financial Industry Regulatory Authority
(www.Finra.org) Contact 301-590-6500
Helpline for Seniors 844-574-3577 (M to F 9-5 ET)
Community Elder Care Locator National Hotline:
locates local programs in many communities to assist elders
National Fraud Information Center
Federal Trade Commission
National Foundation for Consumer Credit
Free, confidential debt management assistance
Federal Trade Commission Clearinghouse
National Fraud Information Center:
To report telemarketing or Internet fraud
Medicare Fraud Hotline https://www.medicare.gov/forms-help-and-resources/report-fraud-and-abuse/report-fraud/reporting-fraud.html
Social Security Administration Fraud Hotline http://oig.ssa.gov/report
For fraud involving misuse of Social Security Numbers
Securities and Exchange Commission:
To file or investigate prior complaints
Commodities Futures Trading Commission:
U.S. Postal Service
Takes reports of mail crimes
State Agencies to Report Fraud
Contact your state Attorney General and/or local police to report most consumer frauds.
Contact the agencies listed below to have your name removed from many mailing and phone lists (telemarketing). Be aware that this will not stop the illegal telemarketing scams.
Direct Marketing Assn.
PO Box 9008 Farmingdale, NY 11735
National Do Not Call Registry
For Victims of Identity Theft
The Federal Trade Commission recommends victims take several actions immediately.
1.) 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. Order copies of your credit report to check for accuracy.
Credit Reporting Agencies
Write the following to report credit fraud or dispute information listed.
P.O. Box 740256
Atlanta, GA 30374
2.) If checks are involved, contact your bank and consider closing any accounts which have been fraudulently used.
3.) Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Follow up with a letter documenting the fraud.
4.) 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.
5.) Contact the Identity Theft Clearinghouse to report the crime and obtain other useful information to protect your financial identity.
Privacy Rights Clearinghouse