by Nicole Masnica, Jason Luczak and Adam Schleis

As the world has become digitized, computer fraud and internet fraud are becoming increasingly common. Many people and companies engage in actions that are deceptive and are intentionally fraudulent, which cause users significant harm, such as by stealing confidential, personal and other important information, convincing people to turn over money or property, or gaining access to financial accounts. As knowledge of these types of activities increases, law enforcement agencies are taking steps to combat computer crimes. If you have been accused of one of these crimes, it is important to understand the severity of the charge and what penalties you may face if convicted.

Common Types of Computer Fraud

Fraud committed using computer systems or over the internet may take many forms, including:

  • Online scams – Some people may find themselves the victim of deception that is meant to convince them to turn over money to someone else. This can happen through email, social media, or other websites. Because it can be easy to disguise one’s identity online, a person may contact someone claiming to be from an official government agency, such as the IRS or FBI, and they may state that fines need to be paid or other forms of payment must be made to avoid criminal consequences. They may attempt to convince people to transfer money to them from bank accounts or to purchase gift cards or other items and send them through the mail.

  • Phishing – This involves sending fake emails or texts that appear to be from a legitimate source, such as a person’s bank, in an attempt to steal personal information. The message may say that there is a problem with the person’s account and they need to provide their login information or other sensitive data. Scammers can then use the person’s information to access their actual accounts and transfer money, make purchases, or take other illegal actions.

  • Malware or ransomware – Some types of software are designed to damage computer systems or lock a person out of accessing their computers or accounts. In some cases, a person’s computer may be infected with viruses without their knowledge, and infections may then be spread to other computers, or their computer may be used to commit fraud against others. If a person is locked out of their computer, payment may be demanded in order to regain access to important information.

  •  Identity theft – This occurs when someone uses another person’s personal information without their permission. After uncovering a person’s Social Security number, bank account numbers, credit card numbers, or other information, someone may make unauthorized purchases, open new accounts in their name, file tax refunds using their Social Security number, or commit other forms of fraud.

Generally, criminal charges for computer or internet fraud are handled similarly to other forms of fraud. The penalties for these offenses will typically depend on the value of the money that was stolen or the losses a victim experienced. However, charges will likely be more serious if an offense involved accessing, transferring, or stealing money that had been in the control of a bank or financial institution. In addition to state-level fraud charges (e.g., Wis. Stat. sec. 943.70, 943.201 and 943.203), federal charges may apply in situations where victims in more than one state were affected or where an offense involved interstate communications over the internet.  That means every fraudulent digital transaction can subject a person to criminal liability,, as the internet is inextricably linked interstate.

Contact Our Milwaukee, WI Computer Fraud Defense Lawyers

If you have been charged with an offense involving computer or internet fraud, it is important to ensure that you have legal representation from an experienced criminal defense lawyer., who regularly handles computer and internet crimes, and closely works with necessary forensic experts.   An experienced attorney can help you understand the nature of the charges against you and work to build a defense strategy. At Gimbel, Reilly, Guerin & Brown, LLP, our attorneys may be able to argue that you did not intend to cause harm, that the alleged victim’s information was not actually stolen, or that other mitigating factors apply. Additionally, if federal charges are filed, having an attorney who understands the complexities of federal law can be critical in achieving the best possible outcome for your case. Contact our Milwaukee internet fraud defense attorneys today at 414-271-1440 to get the legal help you need in these situations.

Sources:

https://smallbusiness.chron.com/types-computer-fraud-crime-78730.html

https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/943/iii/20

https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/943/iv/82

https://www.usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds

https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/943/III/70

https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/943/iii/201

https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/statutes/statutes/943/iii/203