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In criminal law, fraud is intentional deception made for personal gain or to damage another individual; the related adjective is fraudulent, and verb is defraud. fraud is a crime and a civil law violation, though the specific criminal law definition varies by legal jurisdiction. defrauding people or entities of money or valuables is a common purpose of fraud. a hoax also involves deception, but without the intention of gain or of damaging or depriving the victim.