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What is mass-marketing fraud?

The federal government employs a good many resources to fight crimes involving financial fraud. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which is an arm of the U.S. Department of Justice, is involved in investigating some of these crimes, such as mass-marketing fraud, because they often take place on a global scale. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is part of a multi-agency group established nearly a decade ago called the International Mass-Marketing Fraud Working Group.

This group is comprised of not only law enforcement agencies, but consumer protection and regulatory agencies based in seven countries. These agencies work to find and disrupt schemes involving mass-marketing fraud and apprehend those behind them by exchanging intelligence and coordinating cross-border operations. Often these fraud operations are based abroad.

Another task of the group is to educate the public about what mass-marketing fraud is. The term generally refers generally to a fraud scheme where mass communication is used to fraudulently solicit people and transmit the proceeds gained from the scheme. These operations often involve the internet. However, they can also be carried out via traditional mail, telephone and even in-person mass meetings.

Because global communication has become easier, better and less expensive in recent years, mass-marketing fraud has become increasingly widespread. Telemarketing and identity theft schemes are common types of mass-marketing fraud. However, this crime includes activity that many people may not recognize as a federal crime, including:

-- Business opportunity schemes (including advertisements for earning significant money by working at home)

-- Retail and auction schemes

-- Romance schemes

-- Reduction of credit card interest schemes

People who become involved in soliciting people to pay money for a product or service via a mass marketing operation that is fraudulent, even if they didn't realize they were breaking the law, could face significant legal consequences. It's essential that a person who is facing a charge involving mass-marketing fraud seek experienced legal guidance.

Source: U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, "Mass-Marketing Fraud," accessed Nov. 10, 2016

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