Many perpetrators will have spent the money and have no discernible resources with which to repay victims.In other cases, perpetrators will have placed assets in the names of others or hidden money in offshore accounts, so victims usually collect only pennies on the dollar of what they are owed, or get nothing at all.
So even if the court orders full restitution to victims, the collection and distribution of payments is often difficult, especially if perpetrators are sentenced to long periods of incarceration.
There are two kinds of forfeiture: criminal and civil.
The former is part of a criminal case against a defendant. While there is a parallel criminal arrest and prosecution, in the overwhelming majority of civil forfeiture cases, there are important reasons why the government must have civil forfeiture, in addition to criminal.
One telemarketer recently told a prosecutor: "I'd rather spend a million dollars fighting extradition than paying it back in restitution to the victims".
There have been attempts to deal with this problem by assigning fraud investigators to track the assets of suspected perpetrators before they are indicted.