Wire fraud is a form of white-collar crime that can have some pretty hefty consequences for anyone who is not expecting it.
But what exactly is wire fraud? How does the law define it? And what are the heavy penalties associated with it?
Tools used in wire fraud
The United States Department of Justice defines the crime of wire fraud. Wire fraud typically involves a fraudulent scheme that makes use of wire communication to perpetuate the scheme itself. Examples of “wires” used in these schemes can include:
- Text messages
- Fax messages
- Posts on online bulletin boards
- Phone calls
In essence, anything that takes place over a technological line of communication – or a “wire” – counts as wire fraud.
Wire vs. mail fraud
This sets it apart from its closely related counterpart, mail fraud, which often involves similar types of crime but with a different method of pulling it off. With mail fraud, people use the mail to perpetuate their fraud instead.
The goal of the fraud is always more or less the same, however. The person committing the fraud attempts to part the victim from his or her money, assets, or access to honest services.
Penalties for wire fraud
The penalties for these fraud types are quite high, though. They can result in up to 20 years in jail and fines of up to $500,000. In the event that the fraud target was a financial institution, or if the accused party allegedly used a natural disaster to perpetuate their fraud, they could face up to $1 million in fines and up to 30 years in prison instead, making it a hefty penalty for anyone to face.