Computer fraud is defined as fraudulent activity that is done by using a computer, more specifically, when it occurs over the Internet. Computer fraud or Internet crimes could occur in chat rooms, message boards, web sites, or via email. Any individual who is convicted of violating Internet fraud laws can face severe penalties including hefty fines and up to 20 years in prison depending on the magnitude of the alleged fraud and the damages caused to the alleged victims.
If you have been charged with computer fraud, please contact an experienced Santa Clarita criminal defense lawyer with The Law Offices of Daniel E. Kann to better understand your legal rights and options. A free no-obligation consultation on your case will inform you not only of your charges and what you stand to lose, but how you can better protect yourself. To learn more, contact our legal team at (888) 744-7730.
Defining Computer Fraud under California Law
Computer fraud encompasses a wide variety of illegal activities, each with their own goals and methods. California Penal Code Section 502 defines many different types of actions as illegal in order to protect the privacy of individuals and companies. Those who illegally access, copy, delete, destroy, disrupt, alter, or contaminate data through computers for their own gain can be charged with computer fraud. Also, anyone who knowingly and without permission uses the Internet domain name of another individual, corporation, or entity in connection with the sending of one or more electronic mail messages, and thereby damaged a computer, computer system or computer network can be charged with computer fraud.
Common Crimes Related to Computer Fraud
There are many different types of computer and Internet fraud activities that are vigorously prosecuted by federal and state officials:
- Identity theft: This occurs when the personal information of individuals is stolen and used by the defendant for illegal purposes. Examples of such fraud include "phishing," which is an attempt to victimize someone by sending them an email that seems to be from a legitimate company or web site, but the link takes the victim elsewhere, to a fraudulent site. Using another person's credit card or debit card to make illegal purchases online also amounts to fraud. Hacking is another example where an individual illegally gains access to a computer system for purposes of victimizing those whose personal information is listed on the site or system.
- Internet investment fraud: This type of a scheme lures victims into investing in a company that does not exist.
- Communications fraud: Using Internet services such as wireless, satellite, or other services without payment or sharing copyrighted property such as films and music without proper authorization amounts to communications fraud.
- Other forms of computer fraud: Other examples include stealing computer data, destroying or manipulating data that is stored in a computer, cyberstalking, spreading a computer virus, and obtaining information that compromises national security.
Penalties for Computer Fraud in California
Computer fraud is punished depending on the exact type of actions that were allegedly taken and the amount of funds that were gained. Felony computer fraud is punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and/or 16 months, two years, or three years in prison. If deemed a misdemeanor, the charges can be punished by one year in county jail and/or $5,000 in fines. The grounds on which these penalties are determined are laid out in California Penal Code Section 502.
Those convicted of computer fraud will find it difficult to find gainful employment, especially in jobs that involve computer access or access to valuable information. Unfortunately, as online criminal activity grows, those charged with such actions will find themselves facing not only severe prosecution, but damage to personal relationships.
Proper Defenses against Your Charges
Like all fraud crimes, prosecutors seek to prove that a defendant gained access to information that he or she had no legal right to and used for his or her own personal gain. Defense attorney Daniel E. Kann has been successfully defending clients from a wide variety of fraud and theft charges throughout his career, giving him the skills, resources, and tactics to provide a successful defense.
Often, accidental access to information online, such as through a company computer, can be perceived as attempted fraud when the action itself was truly harmless. Additionally, prosecutors will attempt to bring as many different charges and as many counts of each charge as possible in order to increase the sentence to the greatest extent. A proper defense will have these charges lowered and negotiate for lesser or alternative penalties, or dismissed altogether to give a defendant's future the best chance. Defenses include:
- Lack of intent,
- Wasn't me: i.e.; mistaken identity,
- Legitimate use of material or property for legitimate means,
Experienced Defenses from Years of Success
If you or a loved one has been arrested on suspicion of computer fraud, it would be in your best interests to retain the services of an aggressive criminal defense lawyer who will keep you out of jail, get your sentence reduced or may even get the charges dismissed. Contact skilled Santa Clarita fraud defense attorney Daniel E. Kann to better understand the charges you face and the options you have. We understand that your reputation and your future are at stake. Call us today to find out how we can help.