18 USC § 1341, 18 USC § 1343
The term “cybercrime” often evokes an image of someone in a foreign country hacking a major government agency when, in reality, “cybercrime” covers a wide range of conduct. This is in addition to any state crimes that can be committed using the Internet.
Many cybercrimes revolve around information, and how that information can then be converted into money. Whether the information is sold to a third party, or is used to further a fraudulent scheme, the ends of most cybercrime is to use stolen or fraudulently obtained personal information to obtain goods or services.
18 U.S.C. § 1341 and 1343 (Mail, Wire, and Bank Fraud)
Section 1343 is a very broad law that covers almost all fraud perpetuated on the Internet, via telephone. Section 1341 covers all fraudulent goods or fraudulent communications sent by either U.S. Postal Service, and any private carriers like UPS, FedEx, or any other “commercial carrier.” An edited version of section 1341 is excerpted below:
“Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, or to sell, dispose of, loan, exchange, alter, give away, distribute, supply, or furnish or procure for unlawful use any counterfeit or spurious coin, obligation, security, or other article, or anything represented to be or intimated or held out to be such counterfeit or spurious article, for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice or attempting so to do, places in any post office or authorized depository for mail matter, any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by the Postal Service, or deposits or causes to be deposited any matter or thing whatever to be sent or delivered by any private or commercial interstate carrier, or takes or receives therefrom, any such matter or thing, or knowingly causes to be delivered by mail or such carrier according to the direction thereon, or at the place at which it is directed to be delivered by the person to whom it is addressed, any such matter or thing, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
It doesn’t take long to see how quickly fraudulent conduct committed anywhere in the United States could subject you to punishment of up to 30 years in federal prison, a hefty fine, or both under section 1341.
Section 1343 is about how fraudulent communication is achieved. An excerpt of 18 U.S.C. 1343 follows:
“Whoever, having devised or intending to devise any scheme or artifice to defraud, or for obtaining money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, transmits or causes to be transmitted by means of wire, radio, or television communication in interstate or foreign commerce, any writings, signs, signals, pictures, or sounds for the purpose of executing such scheme or artifice, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than 20 years, or both.”
If you think sections 1341 and 1343 sound somewhat similar, it is because they are. Both sections cover multiple methods of perpetuating fraud. The portion of section 1343 in bold text above essentially covers all forms of modern communication, including text messages, phone calls, emails, television commercials, or even broadcasted pictures. If you use a phone, computer, or the Internet in any form to perpetuate fraud, you have likely violated section 1343 and face up to 30 years in prison and/or up to $1 million in fines, depending on the circumstances.
But What is Fraud?
Fraud is “misrepresentation or concealment of a material fact or matter or the scheme to obtain money or property by means of false or fraudulent pretenses involving a false statement, assertion, half-truth or knowing concealment concerning a material fact or matter.” In short, fraud is lying about or hiding an important fact to get another person or entity to give you money or property you would not have gotten otherwise.
Crimes like this require that you knew you were lying or misrepresenting the truth, or that you didn’t intend your factual misstatements to make a person or entity give you money or property. Legal defenses to fraud can be complex, so consult a licensed criminal defense attorney about your unique case.
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