There are many different ways in which the crime of fraud can be charged - internet or computer based fraud is just one of those forms. Internet fraud typically refers to any fraudulent crime that is conducted with the use of the internet or a computer and it is by far one of the most popular forms of fraud charged against people across the world today.
Internet fraud can take place through a variety of gateways or means online, such as through the use of forums, message boards, emails, websites, and other significant ploys. In most cases, internet crimes using fraud will involve many different types of fraudulent behavior designed to trick a person into handing over personal details or money. Sometimes, this may refer to instances which involve creating transactions that are neither authorized, nor legitimate, destroying or stealing someone else's personal data from their computer, taking identities through the use of the internet, or even taking information that is crucial to the functioning of a company.
Typically, the laws and legislature surrounding internet fraud dictate that this term can be used to refer to any crime that is facilitated using a communication network on an electronic basis, such as the internet. Fraud can be simply defined as by federal law 42 CFR as an intentional misrepresentation or deception conducted by an individual with the intent to obtain unauthorized material gain or benefit.
Examples of Internet Fraud
Though there are a number of states throughout America today that have levied specific laws against both internet and computer fraud, it's worth understanding that most acts of fraud which are committed using the internet generally constitute as a federal crime by their very nature. This happens because the infrastructure by which internet fraud is able to take place (the web), is distributed across the United States and the world, meaning that criminal acts of fraud are likely to cross state borders. Acts of fraud however, which exclusively take place within a singular state jurisdiction may be prosecuted under relevant state laws.
Computer and internet based laws on fraud are intended to help in the protection of various individuals across the United States and the world when it comes to preventing the loss of assets, personal information, or property. There are many different ways in which an act of internet fraud can be conducted, and in addition to being prosecuted with the charge of internet fraud on a federal level, some convicted criminals are also charged with acts of terrorism, mail fraud, and wire fraud.
Some instances of internet fraud are:
- The intentional accessing of any computer network or singular computer without the permission given by the person who owns that network or computer. Usually, access is obtained in an effort to retrieve information such as financial records from government bodies, or protected devices.
- The intentional accessing of any device used for computing by the United States government - regardless of whether or not information might have been altered or removed when accessing that device.
- The knowing and deliberate cause of damage to a protected computer or computer network through the use or transmission of agents like viruses, computer programs, code, and other types of agents which might cause damage.
- The reckless or unknowing cause of damage to protected computers that is caused through attempted unauthorized access.
Internet Fraud Punishment
It is worth noting that internet fraud and computer fraud sentencing guidelines often recognize the distinctions made based on the value of the data involved that may be stolen or compromised leading to more significant penalties becoming possible when the value exceeds $,5000. In cases where the unauthorized use of computer activity leads to serious damage on the behalf of the United States government, or to national security, the imprisonment potential often extends to twenty years, with the possibility of extra added fines. What's more, cases that lead to serious bodily harm to another person may also qualify for a more severe federal sentence.
In Massachusetts, punishment is as follows:
Computer fraud is punishable by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 2.5 years or a fine of not more than $3000, or both.
Identity fraud is punishable by imprisonment in a house of correction for not more than 2.5 years or a fine of not more than $5000, or both. In addition, the convict will be ordered to make restitution of the fnancial loss suffered by the victim because of the offense.
Internet Fraud Defenses
- Arguing that if an illegal search turned up evidence on your computer, that evidence should be kept out of court or be deemed inadmissible.
- Arguing that there is not enough evident proof, or evidence of intent to show your participation in an online fraudulent action.
- Arguing that your identity has been somehow mistaken for someone else's, or that someone else may have used your computer system or credentials online to commit a crime in your name.
What to Do If You Have Been Charged
If you are charged with internet fraud, the best thing you can do is speak to a legal expert about the details of your case as early as possible. If your defense attorney can successfully assist you in proving a defense, or at least introducing some reasonable doubt to the case that has been presented by the prosecutor, you might be able to avoid conviction.