What is wire fraud?

Before the days of the internet and its related components, many schemes occurred through the use of the postal system. The act of using letters with the purpose of falsely acquiring the personal information or money of others is mail fraud. For example, someone may order something through a catalog and never receive the item or may fill out what looks like a legitimate government or bank form.

This type of fraud is now less common than the more efficient means of wire fraud, which is similar except that it uses wire communication instead of mail. If you face charges for wire fraud, it is important to understand what that means.

Qualifications of wire fraud

Numerous methods of defrauding exist. As a whole, fraud comprises the intent to swindle many people through a pattern of behavior. A single transaction between two people that causes one to lose a minor sum of money does not warrant federal fraud charges.

Fraud falls under the wire category if it meets the following requirements according to U.S. law:

  • Intentional creation of or voluntary participation in a plan with the objective of deceitfully obtaining money
  • Reasonable anticipation of use or actual use of interstate wire communication to achieve the fraud

Such communication includes telephone calls, emails, faxes and even TV and radio ads – any electronic contact that can cross state lines.

Examples of wire fraud

Telemarketing scams are a common and older method, but the use of the internet is much more prevalent. Phishing is sending an email that looks like it is from a real company and asks for private information. Internet auction fraud is like catalog mail fraud in which someone buys something from an internet auction site but never receives the purchase or receives an item that is different or of lower quality. Some forms of malware attack computers with the intent to steal data. These same acts can happen on smartphones as well.

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