Internet fraud is a type of cybercrime and can be initiated or conducted by using an electronic communication device (e.g., cell phone, computer) to commit the violation. The following acts constitute internet fraud:
- Hacking into someone else’s computer without authorization;
- Intercepting electronic transmissions without authorization;
- Stealing someone else’s identity;
- Inducing someone else into a false investment scheme; and
- Cyberstalking someone else on the internet.
In general, fraud takes place when the victim is intentionally deceived which results in relinquishing valuable property or information. Fraud can be considered a civil tort or a criminal violation. So, the nature of the legal claim depends on the defendant’s actions and ultimate consequences he or she may have caused towards the victim.
The state laws that may be applicable to internet fraud include:
- California Penal Code § 530.5 prohibits identify theft;
- California Penal Code § 484e prohibits credit card fraud;
- California Penal Code § 502 prohibits unauthorized access to computers; and
- California Business & Professions Code § 22948 prohibits phishing schemes and is known as the “Anti-Phishing Act.”
Penal Code § 530.5 makes the following actions illegal: (a) willfully obtaining personal identifying information of another person and using it for unlawful purpose (e.g., to obtain, or attempt to obtain, credit, goods, services, real property, or medical information) without consent; (b) acquiring or retaining possession of the personal identifying information of another person without consent and with the intent to defraud; (c) selling, transferring, or conveying the personal identifying information of another person without consent and with the intent to defraud; and (d) selling, transferring, or providing personal identifying information of another person with actual knowledge that the information will be used to commit a fraud.
The federal laws that may be applicable to internet fraud include:
- 18 U.S.C. § 1343 covers wire fraud and is applicable to cyber fraud incidents – i.e., fraudulent acts that are perpetrated by using electronic messages on the internet. A violation of this federal statute imposes punishment up to twenty years in federal prison; and
- 18 U.S.C. § 1030 prohibits the unauthorized access to another individual’s electronic communication devices. It is also called the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act which was passed to prevent unlawful access to a protected computer. The statute prohibits computer espionage, computer trespassing, computer fraud, dissemination of malware, password trafficking, and threatening to damage a protected computer.
The victim or plaintiff must prove the defendant had a plan to commit fraud, intended to defraud the victim or plaintiff, and used electronic communications to further the plan. However, in most cases, the victim or plaintiff does not need to prove defendant’s plan was successful.
Our law firm provides solutions for investigating and prosecuting the responsible parties in civil actions. We work with investigators and experts to uncover the facts and evidence. We have collaborated with state and federal law enforcement agencies during investigations. We can assist clients in filing complaints with state and federal government agencies such as the Attorney General, Federal Bureau of Investigation, or Internet Crime Complaint Center (“IC3”). Our legal team has been successful in investigating and prosecuting known and unknown (i.e., anonymous) individuals who have violated our client’s rights. We have handled matters related to internet fraud, identity theft, online privacy, digital currencies, unauthorized computer access (i.e., hacking), phishing incidents, ransomware incidents, and cybersecurity incidents.