Over the past few decades the use of the internet, email, and social media have become essential components of our daily lives. The cloak of anonymity that the internet provides has also encouraged the proliferation of fraudulent schemes through email, social media, and other platforms.

Prosecutors take computer crimes very seriously. Being convicted of internet fraud can result in a wide variety of penalties. Read more below to learn about internet fraud and the penalties it can entail.

What is Internet Fraud?

Internet fraud, popularly referred to as cybercrime, broadly refers to the use of the internet as a means of defrauding victims. This can take place with through an internet service provider, online shop, website, internet dating site, or social network.

What happens if I'm convicted of internet fraud?

There are many penalties that can be leveraged against you if you're convicted of cybercrime. You may be faced with imprisonment, probation, and high fines, including restitution to victims. Internet fraud crimes are often considered ‘wobbler' crimes under California law, meaning they can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the severity of the crime, amount of evidence, and intentions of a given prosecutor.

What are common cybercrimes?


Phishing and Spoofing

Phishing is a very common cybercrime, whereby someone may acquire personal identifying information from a victim by impersonating a reliable entity. Similarly, spoofing describes the criminal act of falsifying an IP address in order to convince a victim that they are communicating with a credible entity.

Personal identifying information can include credit card information, usernames and passwords, social security numbers, bank account numbers, and many other identifiers.

Phishing is considered a ‘wobbler' crime in California, meaning that depending on the severity of the crime, it can be prosecuted as either a misdemeanor or felony.

Unauthorized Computer Access

Popularly referred to as ‘hacking,' unauthorized computer access describes the act of accessing a website, server, or other system by using someone else's account information.

This is illegal under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, and in California, often constitutes a ‘wobbler' crime, resulting in either misdemeanor or felony charges depending on the severity of the specific crime.

Spam Mail

Spam email, or the transmission of bulk emails, is a common form of fraud, where spam mail corrupts a computer. Spam mail can provide someone with the personal identifying information of victims, or it may damage the performance of a computer.

Internet Auction Fraud and Non-Delivery of Merchandise

With platforms such as eBay and Craigslist, individuals can post various products for sale even if the product is non-existent. The advertised product may be a picture of a product from another website. Scammers may collect funds without shipping the product at all. Likewise, scammers may request a wire transfer of funds from a victim before shipping the product, and then request another full payment for the product upon delivery.

Under 18 U.S. Code § 1343, internet auction fraud could be punishable by high fines and up to 20 years in prison. 

Unexpected Prizes

Pop-up advertisements on the computer may tell an individual that they have qualified for a free gift or a vacation. In order to receive the prize, the victim often must pay various shipping costs or fees, thereby defrauding the individual because the prize doesn't exist.

Have you or a loved one been charged with internet fraud? Protect your rights and your freedom. Contact criminal defense attorney Seth P. Chazin online or call immediately at 1-800-242-1514 to start planning your defense strategy for your federal case.

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Seth P. Chazin is a San Francisco Bay Area Criminal Defense Lawyer with over 30 years experience.

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