Email scams are perpetrated by bad actors that attempt to take your money. Some of these scams are successful because of the techniques used, but they’re serious offenses that can land perpetrators in legal hot water.
Take the example of a Houston man who was recently arrested for wire fraud. He had a scheme involving spoofing of business email communications that allowed him to steal millions from people across Texas and in other states. He now faces state and federal charges.
Here’s what you need to know about email spoofing and what can happen if it’s a scheme you are ever caught up in.
Email Spoofing: What Is It?
Email spoofing is when someone sets up an email address that looks very similar to a legitimate company’s email address.
The fraudster sends out messages under the spoofed email in an effort to obtain crucial financial information from a company or from its clients or customers.
Under the law, scams like these are considered wire fraud, which can result in criminal prosecution at both a state and a federal level.
Texas Wire Fraud
Using messages sent through electronic mediums such as the wire, email, fax, telephone, television, radio, or other internet communications to perpetrate a crime such as to defraud someone or fraudulently obtain property or money, is considered wire fraud.
To prove wire fraud, prosecutors are required to prove one of these things:
- The defendant was involved in a scheme to defraud someone
- The defendant acted with intent to defraud the victim or victims
- The defendant made false representations in order to defraud the victim
- The defendant used electric means to transmit the misrepresentation of foreign or interstate commerce
It’s important to note that even if the scheme isn’t successful, a person can still be charged and convicted of wire fraud. If the state can prove that there was intent to defraud, then that is often enough.
In general, wire fraud that causes minor damage to victims or is an isolated transaction is generally prosecuted in state court. When wire fraud impacts financial institutions or the acts are made in connection with an emergency or natural disaster, then federal charges are filed.
Federal Wire Fraud
In federal court, wire fraud is evaluated based on the type of scheme committed and how it may have worked to defraud the public, a class of persons, and/or whether the activity was a pattern of conduct by the perpetrator.
Computer phishing scams, Ponzi schemes, and anything other criminal activities that use wire communications are normally prosecuted at the federal level and perpetrators can face very severe penalties for their roles in the schemes.
The Penalties for Wire Fraud
A conviction of wire fraud will carry with it a sentence of up to 20 years in prison for each count of fraud as well as steep fines. A person can get up to 30 years for each count and be fined up to $1 million for each count if someone is convicted in federal court.
Wire fraud is a serious crime and can result in penalties that will alter your life forever.
Understand your rights if you’re ever charged with a crime of this seriousness and make sure you take the steps you need to protect your rights and represent yourself in the court of law.