The integration of digital communications into the daily lives of many Americans has arguably been one of the drivers behind the increases in worker productivity in this country. But the same technological advances that can boost the profitability of a business or make anything from shopping to banking more convenient can also create opportunities for less savory activities.

A general term used to describe some illegal behaviors that use electronic means is wire fraud.

In the Internet age, some people may think of wire fraud as an activity that uses computers to commit crimes. There are, however, other ways of engaging in wire fraud that are still relevant such as telephone, television, and even fax machine.

Wire fraud is based on much of the same behaviors found in fraud cases, which generally consist of intentionally untruthful representations with regard to material facts, the purpose of which is to gain something of value from a person through deception.

What distinguishes wire fraud from “ordinary” fraud is that the person who engages in wire fraud intentionally creates or participates in a fraudulent scheme that uses interstate wire communications.

Examples of wire fraud activity include:

  • Telemarketing scams, which include attempts to trick people into allowing remote site access to their computers or to disclose their credit card or bank account information; 
  • “Phishing” schemes, which present a computer user with an email or Website that looks legitimate but instead seeks to elicit credit card or bank account information for a fraudulent purpose; and
  • False narratives, perhaps best known through variations of the “Nigerian prince” scheme that attempts to fool people into allowing someone to gain access to their bank accounts based on false claims that they will receive large deposits of money into them.

Because of its often interstate nature, wire fraud frequently triggers investigation and prosecution by federal law enforcement, although New Jersey state officials may also be involved. The penalties of a conviction on fraud charges can be very serious and involve jail time and significant fines, so defending against allegations can be crucial.

This post only covers wire fraud, and does so for general information. Anyone who has been accused of wire fraud may wish to communicate with a legal professional to discuss possible strategies to fight these criminal charges.