Internet Fraud and Cyber Crimes

Internet fraud is a broad term that describes several areas of computer and cybercrime. Internet fraud can be applied to any crime committed using the internet. Phishing scams, unauthorized computer access, and email fraud schemes are common crimes that fall under the internet fraud and cybercrime label. Internet crimes often fall under federal law – make sure your attorney has Federal-level experience.

Certain elements must be met for it to be considered internet fraud: 1) there was a plan in place to commit fraud, 2) there was intent to defraud someone, and 3) the internet, email or other electronic communication was used in that scheme.

An example of internet fraud: sending an email notifying the recipient they were the benefactor of a large inheritance. In order to claim, they had to submit a social security number, date of birth, and their driver’s license number.

Cryptocurrency Crimes

Transactions using cryptocurrency are registered in a public ledger, called blockchain. The most commonly used cryptocurrency is bitcoin.  Other cryptocurrencies include Ethereum, Litecoin, Zcash, Dash, Ripple, Monero, NEO, Cardano and EOS.  Cryptocurrency crimes occur on the Darkweb and include various forms of fraud, including sales of products designed to commit internet fraud, drug crimes and others.  The Darkweb, also called the Darknet, is accessed through the Onion router (TOR), which allows for transactions to occur anonymously. The once largest Darkweb website was Silk Road, which was shut down by the Government in 2014.  AlphaBay, which was far larger than Silk Road, was shut down by the Government in 2017.

Penalties for Internet Fraud and Cyber Crimes

Generally in California internet fraud can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony. As a misdemeanor, you can receive up to one year in jail and a fine. A felony can be punished by up to 3 years in prison.

For federal crimes, the penalty range is wide depending upon the facts.  For example, Ross Ulbricht, known as Dread Pirate Roberts, was the founder of Silk Road. He went to trial, was convicted of all charges, and was sentenced to double life plus additional time in prison.   Forfeiture was ordered in the amount of $183,961,921.