When it was first introduced to the public in the early 1990s, the Internet provided unprecedented access to people and information all around the world. Social media and digital sharing platforms showed up a short time later (the first social media site, Six Degrees, was established in 1997, and Napster was founded in 1999), before eventually exploding in popularity to make the online world what it is today.
While the Internet opened up a new world of possibility, it also gave rise to a new body of criminal law – commonly referred to as “cybercrimes.” This is an area of the law that is little understood by most Internet users, and yet can result in severe penalties for those found guilty of online criminal activity.
What Online Acts Are Considered Cybercrimes?
The following are four of the most commonly charged cybercrimes:
1. Illegal Downloading
Those of us who were online in the early 2000s remember the downfall of Napster and the high-volume users who went with it. Contrary to public belief, the fact that something is “available” for download does not mean that it is unprotected by law. Federal copyright laws protect original works of authorship (such as movies, songs, books, and photographs), and illegal downloading can lead to criminal prosecution.
2. Computer Fraud (Internet Fraud)
Computer fraud and Internet fraud are broad terms that encompass a wide range of criminal offenses. Along with hacking, one of the more-common examples of computer fraud is using the Internet to perpetrate a fraudulent scam. Soliciting someone through email, social media, or a website for purposes of stealing their money or personal information is a serious offense that can result in huge fines and long-term imprisonment.
3. Identity Theft
At the federal level, identity theft is defined in 18 U.S.C. Section 1028. This law imposes criminal penalties for eight primary forms of identity theft:
- Creating false identification documents
- Selling false or stolen identification documents
- Possessing with the intent to use or transfer five or more unlawfully obtained identification documents
- Using a false identification document to defraud the United States
- Producing, transferring, or possessing equipment used to make fake IDs
- Possessing a false or stolen ID purported to be issued by the United States or a sponsoring entity of a special event of national significance
- Possessing, using, or transferring a stolen ID with the intent to commit, aid, or abet a federal crime or state felony
- Trafficking materials used to create fake IDs
5. Harassment, Threats, and Abuse
Using social media or other online tools to “frighten, intimidate, threaten, abuse, or harass another person” is a crime under Wisconsin law. Making a bomb threat online is a Class I felony.
Disclaimer: This Article Is Not Legal Advice.
Never rely on an article for legal advice as the law frequently changes, information may not be accurate, there may be exceptions to a rule, and reliance may be detrimental. Always consult one of our experienced attorneys for competent, current, and accurate legal advice.
Contact a Criminal Defense Lawyer in Wausau, WI
The criminal defense lawyers at Crooks, Low & Connell, S.C. provide experienced legal representation for individuals who are under investigation or facing charges for cybercrimes in Wisconsin. If you are being accused of a cybercrime, you need to take your situation extremely seriously, and you may have several defenses available. To discuss your case in confidence, call our Wausau, WI law offices at (715) 842-2291 or request a consultation online now.