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How to tell mail fraud from legitimate business practices

| Apr 12, 2018 | Federal Crimes |

The large number of products and goods that are delivered by mail in today’s economy means there a lot of people who conduct their business through the mail. However, in some cases, a Minnesota business may not be able to fulfill a mail order after a payment has been rendered. Assuming that the business refunds the money or does everything in good faith to compensate the customer, some people may wonder if the customer may turn around and accuse the company of mail fraud. 

Federal law establishes clear parameters for a person or entity to be accused of mail fraud. According to the Cornell Law School website, mail fraud takes place when an individual uses the United States Postal Service to gain money from customers in exchange for a promised service that the individual has no intention of keeping. A person engaging in fraud may promise to invest a client’s money in a certain way, only to take that money and put it away in a personal bank account, or use the money to pay off another client.

The key to successfully proving mail fraud is intent. The difference between a business delaying or cancelling a mailing order and true mail fraud is that the fraudster is depriving clients of a service on purpose, whereas a legitimate business may be subject to outside forces beyond the company’s control, such as an economic downturn, a delay in inventory, or staff upheaval. All of these factors may interfere with a company’s normal flow of operation, and in many cases are not the fault of the company at all. 

Additionally, a party committing mail fraud will falsely present themselves as something that they are not for the purposes of gaining money from unwary clients. The U.S. Department of Justice website states that a mail fraud conviction can be established from the totality of the circumstances, including the conduct of the fraudulent party. True fraud requires an intent to misled through statements, advertisements or other pitches used to draw in clients. By contrast, a company that legitimately presents its practices and acts in accordance with how a business in similar circumstances would normally act cannot be reasonably considered guilty of mail fraud.