Wire fraud and mail fraud often go hand-in-hand, and those who face charges for one will often face charges for the other. However, despite often getting lumped together, wire fraud and mail fraud are two separate crimes that have their own sentencing and potential repercussions.
What is wire fraud, exactly? What sets it apart from mail fraud, and what are the differences in potential penalties that an individual may face?
Mail vs. wire fraud
The Department of Justice examines wire fraud and the repercussions that may result from a conviction. First, they note that wire fraud actually parallels mail fraud in terms of elements. The primary difference involves the method with which the fraud ends up carried out.
Mail fraud, as the name implies, makes use of the U.S. postal system to carry out fraudulent schemes. This can include packages, letters, postcards and more. On the other hand, wire fraud must use an interstate phone call or the use of electronic communication.
Elements of wire fraud
For a crime to fall under the category of wire fraud, it requires the presence of four elements. This includes:
- The defendant voluntarily and intentionally participating in, or devising, schemes to defraud someone else
- That the defendant did this with the intent of defrauding someone
- That there was reasonable foreseeability that interstate wire communication came into use
- That these wire communications did see use
In the modern day, most wire fraud schemes happen via instant messaging, email, messages on blogs and chat forums, and so on. Those convicted can face up to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000. As such, anyone facing a wire fraud charge will likely want to seek legal help.