The long arm of law enforcement reaches into the cyber world. The federal government and California agencies may prosecute internet crimes, among other white collar crime.

Many areas of fraud existed well before the internet. The internet, however, has expanded the reach of this activity and provided new techniques to commit or enhance fraudulent schemes.

Federal and California law enforcement have devoted resources to investigating and prosecuting these crimes. Their technological reach now extends to a person’s home or office. However, these criminal laws may be complex.    

Law enforcement prosecutes charges that a person used internet services or software to commit fraud, obtain money under false pretenses and obtain personal information.

First, a data breach occurs when personal, financial or other sensitive information is disclosed from a secure location. Later it can be used at a corporate or personal level in an untrusted environment.

Using malware is another offense. This involves the use of dangerous software designed to disable computers and their systems.

Phishing or spoofing involves the use of false emails, text messages or copycat websites to appropriate personal information from the victim. It can also involve the theft of credit card and bank account numbers, PINS for credit cards, and passwords for accounts.

In phishing, representations may be made that the victim’s account was compromised or charged incorrectly. Personal information is sought to purportedly identify or confirm an account. This information is then appropriated.

Vishing and smishing are similar offenses. Vishing is done through voice contact and smishing is done through SMS text phishing.

These involve calling or texting a person and claiming to represent a known and valid company. Sometimes corporate logos are added to communications to provide an appearance of authenticity.

Callers may also claim to be a family member or friend. The user is directed to call a phone number to verify an account or to reactivate debit or credit cards.

Other offenses include internet auction fraud. Products are misrepresented on an internet auction site or merchandise is not delivered from the seller to a buyer online as promised. Credit card fraud involves the theft of credit or debit card numbers to purchase money or property.

Federal and California laws impose numerous penalties, which may include imprisonment and fines which range in severity. Investigations may be disruptive as government agents may access computer and cyber records. Anyone investigated for a computer fraud offense should seek immediate legal representation to protect their rights.