A NYC Criminal Lawyer Explains Computer Fraud Crimes
Computers have changed the way the world works. Today, more business than ever is done on a computer and millions of people use computers to obtain information, pay their bills, manage their bank accounts, and make connections in new ways. As computers have become ubiquitous and have increasingly taken over more areas of business and daily living, there has been expanding potential for fraud crimes to occur involving the computer.
In 1986, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act was enacted by Congress to try to address some of the new scams and crimes which were made possible by computers. There have been numerous amendments and modifications to the Act, including in 2008 when the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act was passed. Defendants who participate in any computer fraud offenses could now find themselves facing federal charges with serious penalties. Defendants could also be charged with state crimes for involvement with fraud scams on the computer.
Computer fraud crimes can be very complicated offenses because of the technical nature of many different fraud schemes. Defendants need an experienced attorney who understands computer crimes and who has experience defending against computer fraud charges.
Bukh Law Firm, PLLC has provided representation to notorious hackers, to those accused of operating identity theft rings or sending spam, and to individuals accused of a variety of other serious offenses. Let us help you fight charges if you have been accused of any computer fraud offense.
What is Computer and Internet Fraud?
Computer and Internet fraud involve the use of a computer for unlawful purposes. Computer fraud offenses can be divided into different types of criminal acts including:
- Crimes involving the use false pretenses to obtain confidential information, personal information, or unauthorized access. Phishing to obtain account details or other proprietary information are examples of this type of crime.
- Crimes involving altering electronic data. Creating fake websites designed to obtain money or proprietary information are examples of this type of crime.
- Crimes intended to transmit or provide false or misleading information. Sending spam emails or participating in online auction fraud are examples of this type of computer fraud crime. The goal is often to convince people to part with money by misleading them.
- Crimes intended to obtain unlawful use of a computer or of a computer system. Botnet crimes are an example of this type of computer fraud.
These are just a few of many different examples of various types of computer fraud. Any improper use of a computer to provide misleading information, to obtain unlawful access, or to unlawfully obtain funds or information under false pretenses can be considered a type of computer fraud crime.
Examples of Computer Fraud and Abuse
There are countless different examples of computer fraud and abuse, including international auction fraud; romance scams using online dating sites, and rental listing scams in which online real estate websites are used to connect with scammers. Internet websites and emails are used to run 419 scams, and to perpetrate advance fee fraud where people are convinced to send money. In fact, many of the most common wire transfer schemes now use the Internet rather than the phone or other methods of connecting.
Many of these basic types of computer fraud require little or no technical knowledge of computers. The scams simply use the Internet as a convenient means to connect with victims who can be good targets of a scheme to defraud. There are, however, some scams which require more advanced knowledge. For example, two types of computer and Internet fraud which are often perpetrated by sophisticated scammers with advanced knowledge of computers and technology include:
- Botnet-related fraud: Botnets are networks of computers which have been compromised with malware. Malware programs are written by knowledgeable coders and are usually installed on computers through backdoors, trojan horse, worms, and viruses. Once the computers are infected, the person in charge- called the bot herder or botmaster- has almost complete control over all of the infected computers. The computers can be used to perpetrate other fraud schemes, to wage distributed denial of service attacks, to log key strokes, and to send spam, among other things.
- Trojan Horse scams: Trojan horse scams also require sophisticated programming knowledge. Programs are created which seem useful or desirable but which actually steal information from the computer, harm the computer system, or permit the owner of the trojan horse to take control of the computer system and use it for other purposes.
Because computers and the Internet are used for so many different tasks and have become so pervasive in everyday life, many defendants today find themselves charged with various types of computer crimes even if the computer played only a minimal role of facilitating a connection with the alleged victim.
Penalties for Computer Fraud
Whenever a criminal act involves computer fraud, the FBI’s cyber tax force can become involved in an investigation, and defendants could face serious federal charges. 18 U.S. Code Section 1030, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, prohibits a wide variety of different behaviors including:
- Unauthorized access to a computer to obtain protected information, including information from financial records.
- Intentionally accessing nonpublic computers of government agents or agencies.
- Intentionally accessing a protected computer without authorization and with the intend to defraud and/or obtain anything of value.
- Knowingly causing harm or damage to a computer, including through the transfer of code or information.
- Knowingly trafficking in password or other information making access to a computer possible.
- Threatening to damage computers or threatening to obtain protected information.
These are just a few of the different behaviors that can result in federal charges under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. Defendants can also be charged with other federal offenses, including wire fraud and identity theft crimes. State criminal charges are also possible depending upon the nature of the offense.
How a NY City Criminal Lawyer Can Help Defendants Accused of Computer Fraud
Bukh Law Firm, PLLC will provide assistance and advice in developing a strategy to respond to criminal charges. Give our New York City criminal defense law firm a call right away when you’ve been accused of a computer fraud crime so we can begin investigating the evidence against you and developing a strong legal strategy.