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What is wire fraud?

On Behalf of | Feb 28, 2023 | White Collar Crimes

Some Texas residents have likely received emails from individuals or groups claiming to be government officials or royalty that offer vast sums of money in return for a modest payment to cover the expenses involved. These emails are sent by scammers who are committing wire fraud. Whenever wire-based communications technology like computers or telephones are used to commit or attempt to commit fraud across state lines, the individuals or groups responsible can be prosecuted in federal court for wire fraud. The penalties for wire fraud are harsh, and U.S. attorneys only have to prove intent to obtain a conviction.

Types of wire fraud

Most people associate wire fraud with email scams, but many groups still use telephones to further their fraudulent schemes. This is often the case when the victims are elderly and unlikely to use computers. Common forms of wire fraud include offering the victim a large sum of money in return for a small upfront fee or a modest amount of assistance, claiming that the victim’s Social Security number has been compromised and threatening arrest if they do not cooperate and seeking to obtain the victim’s login credentials or bank account, credit card or Social Security numbers using phishing schemes.

Wire fraud penalties

Wire fraud is a federal crime, and each email or phone call can be charged as a separate count. This is why individuals or groups accused of wire fraud usually enter into plea agreements. Each count of wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years in a federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000. When an organization commits wire fraud, the maximum fine is increased to $500,000. If the victims of wire fraud are financial institutions or the offender took advantage of a state of emergency, the prison sentence can be as long as 30 years, and the fine can be as high as $1 million.

Overseas scammers

Wire fraud is a federal crime that is punished severely, and each phone call made or email sent is considered a separate count. Most of the individuals or groups that commit wire fraud send thousands of emails or make thousands of phone calls just to find one victim, and they leave a trail of electronic evidence behind them for federal investigators to follow. That is why most wire fraud in the United States is committed by individuals or groups in foreign countries.