Fraud is the broadest category of cybercrime. Fraud includes many types of criminal activity, ranging from credit card abuse, wire fraud, and business fraud to misrepresentation and the failure to deliver purchases. The Federal Trade Commission monitors and regulates Internet commerce, and it maintains advice for avoiding fraud at its website: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menu-internet.htm. The Federal Bureau of Investigation investigates and prosecutes cybercrimes. In partnership with several federal agencies, the FBI maintains the Internet Fraud Complaint Center online for accepting complaints at http://www1.ifccfbi.gov/index.asp.
Traditional consumer protection laws apply to fraud on the Internet, but federal law also contains specific Internet-related laws as well. First among these is fraud involving access devices. Federal law defines access devices as cards, codes, account numbers, serial numbers, and so forth that are used to obtain money, goods, and services or to initiate a transfer of funds. A typical example is the fraudulent use of another person’s credit card over the Internet.
The law targets several forms of fraud regarding the use of access devices:
- Producing, using, or trafficking in access devices
- Obtaining anything of value aggregating $1,000 or more during a one-year period
- Possessing fifteen or more counterfeit or unauthorized access devices
- Possessing or controlling counterfeiting access device equipment
- Effecting transactions with access devices issued to another person
- Offering to sell access devices or information on how to obtain them
- Possessing equipment modified to obtain unauthorized use of telecommunications services
- Possessing “scanning receivers” capable of intercepting wire or electronic communication
- Possessing hardware or software that modifies telecommunications identifying information in order to obtain unauthorized telecommunications service
- Unauthorized charges to credit cards
Penalties for violations range from fines to imprisonment from between five to 10 years per offense.