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What Is Swindling?

By Staci A. Terry
Updated May 16, 2024
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Swindling is a crime in which a person intentionally cheats or defrauds another of money or property, or otherwise obtains the money or property by fraudulent means. While some jurisdictions use this term in defining a crime, other jurisdictions use equivalent terms, such as fraud, to indicate the same sort of crime. The exact elements of the crime may differ among jurisdictions. This crime can involve substantial amounts of money or property with great value, so there may be civil repercussions from the act of swindling as well, often in the form of restitution paid to the victims of the crime.

The crime of swindling can occur in many different ways. For instance, an employee can swindle his or her employer by creating a scheme to deprive the employer of money or property belonging to him or her, such as creating false ledger entries to cover up stolen money. Filing false insurance claims in order to defraud insurance companies of money is a form of the crime. Passing counterfeit bills also qualifies as a type of swindling. Tax fraud, investment fraud, and securities fraud are other common types of crimes of this nature.

Swindling can involve either very small or large amounts of money or property. High level schemes can implicate multiple persons and victims, or can involve just one person and one victim. For instance, in the investment arena the crime can result in millions of losses to multiple victims. In other cases, a person may swindle an elderly relative out of the entirety of his or her estate, which can be substantial.

Committing this type of crime can have serious consequences. While some minor cases of swindling with no prior criminal record may result in a misdemeanor conviction that carries no jail time, more substantial or severe schemes may carry felony convictions. If convicted of a felony for swindling, a person can be subject to serious penalties, including substantial amounts of jail time. Whether a misdemeanor or a felony conviction results from committing this crime, there also may substantial financial repercussions, whether levied as part of the criminal proceedings in the nature of restitution, or resulting from a separate civil suit brought about by the value of the money or property involved in the swindling scheme. The penalties for committing this crime will depend upon the laws of the jurisdiction involved, the nature of the crime, and the value of the property.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By lonelygod — On Oct 12, 2011

If you find yourself swindled you should always try and talk to the police about your situation. My grandmother was swindled into buying a really expensive vacuum by an unscrupulous sales person, and it came to well over $1000. My grandmother has a tiny house, with only one carpet and she lives off of an old age pension.

We ended up filing a police report and seeing a lawyer about the whole event. The company that sold my grandmother the vacuum got into a lot of trouble for swindling her like that. It was very clear to the judge that she had been taken advantage of. We got her money back and the company got heavily fined.

By wander — On Oct 11, 2011

If you ever work abroad you have to be very careful about being swindled. There are a lot of companies that like to take advantage of employees who are unfamiliar with local laws, or that they feel don't have much power to do anything.

When I was working in South Korea as an ESL teacher I quickly found that the country was somewhat infamous for swindling money out of their teachers. While I did work for a good school, other ones that I worked for would take random deductions and not pay taxes, my health care, or pension as legally required. I think it's really sad that you have to be on your toes so much when doing business in another country.

By StarJo — On Oct 10, 2011

A girl in my church was quite the swindler. She worked in the front office of a company, and she was in charge of taking money and giving out receipts.

Whenever someone paid in cash, she slyly set the money aside and took it home. If they paid by check or credit card, there was too much evidence to risk stealing it.

It took months for the company to realize that the ratio of money to products sold was off, and they knew she was the only one who handled the money. They took her to court, where she pleaded guilty for a reduced sentence.

By Oceana — On Oct 10, 2011

@seag47 - Isn’t that sad? We had the same thing happen in our town, and the guy made a small fortune before anyone caught onto his plan.

Parts of our town had just been destroyed by a tornado. So, no one thought it suspicious when a man set up a table in the town square to accept donations for victims during a benefit concert. He even had framed photos of destroyed homes and people digging through the debris on the tabletop for effect.

Every business that collected donations during the benefit was supposed to turn in the money to city hall at the end of the night. He was the only one who left without doing this. Cops posted a sketch of him throughout the neighborhood, and they eventually caught him.

By seag47 — On Oct 09, 2011

To me, the worst kind of swindlers are those who pretend to be collecting money for various charities. We have had so much of that in our neighborhood that I am afraid to give anymore.

There was one guy who would go from door to door with a picture of his niece, a sickly girl supposedly dying of cancer. He was taking donations for her care. After a fruitful day, he left town.

Come to find out, he was traveling all over the state doing the same thing, but he had no niece. The local news ran the story, and he had to stop because he had been exposed.

By Perdido — On Oct 08, 2011

I was almost a victim of swindling once, but I saw the signs before I invested too much of my money in the scheme. I started participating in one of the many fraudulent work at home scams that infiltrate the internet.

My desire to stay home and earn income was so strong that I ignored the obvious warnings at first. I ordered the information packet for $30, which should have been the first red flag. You should never have to pay for information about a job.

The video that came with the package spoke of the thousands I could make each month selling wonderful products, but it never identified the products or said how I would sell them. The testimonials included people sitting by large swimming pools talking about how their lives had changed because of this program.

There were no specifics given. Also, the company wanted $100 for the next information packet that would allow me to start working. I canceled my plan, and though they said they would refund my money, they never did.

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