Wire fraud is a type of financial crime that involves using electronic communication to deceive someone in the hope of gaining profit. The category is extremely broad, as this type of communication can include telephone, fax machines or the Internet. For that matter, it isn’t always clear where one should draw the line between acceptable business practices and illegal deception.
Because the category is so broad, all kinds of people and businesses may find themselves facing charges of wire fraud. After all, it’s rare to find any business that doesn’t use the telephone or email.
Fraud is a misrepresentation of fact made with the intention of getting another person to rely upon it. To be legally actionable, the other person must reasonably believe this misrepresentation is true, must act on it and must suffer harm as a result. For example, a retail seller who sells fake luxury handbags in order to deceive shoppers into paying premium prices may be said to have committed fraud.
Fraud can fall under civil law. This means that someone who believes they were the victim of fraud can file a civil lawsuit against the person or business who allegedly defrauded them. However, fraud can also be a criminal charge.
Fraud can also lead to criminal charges. State and federal prosecutors use certain types of fraud charges to cover specific types of situations involving fraud. For instance, securities fraud charges involve deceptive practices in the selling of stocks and other securities. Bank fraud involves deceptive practices directed at financial institutions. Mail fraud involves fraudulent business practices conducted through the postal system.
The right to a defense
A hundred years ago, wire fraud charges might have involved only deceptive practices using telegrams or early telephones. Today, so much of daily life is conducted through electronic communication that a wide variety of circumstances could fall under the umbrella of wire fraud, including email phishing schemes and identity theft scams. In fact, prosecutors could conceivably tag a wire fraud charge on to any assortment of charges they throw at a person or business they believe has defrauded other people, just as long as the defendant used electronic communication at any point in the commission of the alleged crime.
Everyone who is accused of a crime has the right to a defense. Anyone accused of wire fraud can speak with a criminal defense attorney about the strategies they may use to protect their rights.