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Due to the pervasive presence of technology in every part of our lives, cybercrime has become one of the newest and most rapidly growing areas of criminal activity. Some of these crimes were not even in existence a few years ago, and others are handled differently today than they were in the past. The most commonly occurring form of cybercrime is computer fraud, in which a person accesses the Internet with a computing device to obtain something valuable that belongs to another person, company, or government entity. Unlike most instances of fraud, computer fraud can involve unknown or anonymous individuals, making it difficult to find and prosecute guilty parties.
If you have been wrongfully accused of perpetrating computer fraud, you will require legal expertise to navigate this challenging case. Just like in other criminal cases, the burden of proof rests upon the prosecution to prove you committed these crimes, not on you to prove your innocence. Often, an experienced criminal defense attorney can negotiate favorable plea agreements or obtain an acquittal based on a lack of compelling evidence. Learn more about computer fraud below, then contact the expert criminal defense team at Tsigler Law for the best legal representation in the New York City area.
What Is Computer Fraud?
According to the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), computer fraud is defined as accessing a protected computer without proper authorization or by exceeding accepted authorization. Any computer that can access the Internet is considered a protected computer.
Computer fraud includes:
The Four Main Elements of Computer Fraud
Computer fraud consists of the following four elements:
- A person has access to and enters a protected computer that does not belong to them. Usually, the device is owned by a private individual and located in a private area or is owned by a company and located in the company’s facilities.
- This person accesses the protected computer without authorization or employs previously given authorization in a manner exceeding that which the person or company has provided to them for a specific task or within a predetermined timeframe. This can involve opening security-protected hard drives or entering network servers designed for a limited number of users.
- The person using the protected computer without proper authorization is accessing this information with knowledge of or intent to engage in committing fraud against a person or an entity. With this intent, the person typically will copy or steal something of value to the victim, such as bank account information.
- The fourth element of computer fraud is the valuable item itself, typically taken for later use. This information usually consists of a specific individual’s personal information, allowing the perpetrator to commit instances of fraud such as identity theft or purchasing items on the victim’s line of credit. In most cases, the goal is to steal important personal or financial information, and the plan has been thoroughly developed before the crime takes place.
The Three Categories of Computer Fraud
Computer fraud can be classified into the following three categories:
- Theft of Information: This refers to a perpetrator stealing information from a secure computer system, such as theft of trade secrets or the duplication of copyrighted materials. Sometimes the perpetrator will use a company’s information to defraud others or hold this information hostage until management decides to meet certain demands, usually a sizable monetary settlement.
- Theft of Service: Usually referred to as “Internet fraud,” theft of service is considered to be any scheme that employs a web site, email account, or chat room to defraud an individual of a company. This type of computer fraud includes offering nonexistent items for sale, stealing funds from an online bank account, or using a protected computer to access internet servers or websites without paying the required service fee.
- Hacking: The electronic form of breaking and entering, hacking is defined as illegally entering the hardware of a protected computer or secure computer system. Hackers employ a variety of technological tools to gain remote access to these devices and can intercept electronic transmissions with important financial information, including credit card numbers, passwords, or other valuable material. To commit identity theft, they can create programs designed to steal your information or transmit computer viruses. Online sex crimes such as cyberstalking and consuming or sharing child pornography are also considered computer fraud.
Examples of Computer and Internet Fraud
Punishment for Federal Computer and Internet Fraud
Within the FBI, the Internet Fraud Complaint Center was developed to monitor computer fraud and prosecute individuals found guilty of committing fraudulent acts online. A perpetrator of computer or internet fraud can be charged with a felony and penalized with fines ranging to $250,000 or prison terms of up to 20 years. Usually, when someone is charged with computer fraud, they can also be charged with other white-collar crimes, such as identity theft, wire fraud, or mail fraud.
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Contact the Experts at Tsigler Law
If you are facing federal charges of computer or internet fraud, you need a qualified criminal defense attorney with the knowledge, skills, and resources to handle this kind of case. The expert team at Tsigler Law will work with you to assess the claim and prepare your defense. Federal computer and internet fraud charges typically include serious penalties and require comprehensive investigation to build an effective defense.
To schedule your free consultation, give us a call today at (718) 878-3781 or contact us online.