Easily Confused Words: Fraud vs. Fraught

Fraud and fraught are easily confused words.

The spell-check application of most word processing software programs would not catch a slip-up of these two words. Spell-check is looking for words that aren’t in its dictionary, and words that resemble words in its dictionary but are possibly spelled wrong. Spell-check isn’t perfect. It doesn’t know and can’t guess what word you wanted or what word you meant, it can only judge the words on the page. If you used words that are all spelled correctly, it gives you a pass anyway.

Autocorrect suggests words that start with the same letters. It’s suggesting what word you may want to save time, but quite often, its suggestions are pretty off base. They don’t help you out, but they do make you laugh.

Fraud (pronounced “frawed”) is a noun. It means to accept money in exchange for a non-existent product, or service, or problem. For example, insurance fraud might involve someone claiming personal injury or property damage in order to get cash from their insurer; often the damage/injury didn’t occur at all. Medicare fraud might involve accepting payment for patient care that did not occur, or filing multiple claims for the same healthcare work. In many situations, fraud is a crime in the US. The consequences can involve jail time, fines, loss of professional licenses, and having this felony permanently listed on one’s record.

Fraught (pronounced “frawt”) is an adjective. It describes situations that are full of problems, flaws, or other faults. For example, a criminal case fraught with inconsistencies, or a toy design fraught with safety concerns.

The following story uses both words correctly:

Frisa was doing her best to represent a new client, a doctor who was accused of Medicare fraud. Unfortunately, her administrative staff hadn’t been very well organized. Multiple firings and hirings had been made within that department over the course of three years. This likely led to inconsistent accounting that was fraught with problems and duplicate entries. 

Frisa certainly had her work cut out for her with this one! 


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