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Defining wire fraud

Most in Houston never anticipate having to answer to accusations of fraud. However, the word itself is so broad in its application that actions that many might not consider to be fraudulent actually are. This may fly in the face of common assumptions about fraud, especially given that so many different types of this activity have been recognized. This seemingly implies a very specific type of action, yet in reality, all involve the same intent: to intentionally secure assets and property through deceitful means. All that differs between the different types is the venue. 

Wire fraud, for example, is defined by the United States Department of Justice as comprising of the following elements: 

  • A person voluntarily or intentionally devising or participating in a scheme to defraud another of money
  • The person doing with the specific intent to defraud
  • It being reasonably foreseeable that interstate wire communications would be used in the furtherance of the scheme
  • Interstate wire communications indeed being used to carry out the scheme

In the context of this law, the DOJ defines “wire communications” as being any communication via telephone or electronic media. Over the years, electronic media has grown to include the internet. Thus, internet fraud is often prosecuted under the wire fraud statute. The Federal Bureau of Investigation views acts such as unauthorized access of email accounts, data breaches, phishing or the deployment of malware, scareware or ransomware as meeting the standard of fraud. One might be accused of engaging in any of these activities not knowing that they are considered to be fraudulent. In order to actually qualify as fraud, however, a malicious intent must still be proven, just as is the case with any other type of fraudulent activity.