Did you know that there was more than $4.5 billion lost in the US alone as a result of online scams in 2020? That explains why companies are growing more strict in how they operate and continuously advising users to be careful with who they provide account access and personal information.
Under a broad definition, an online scam is any fraudulent activity that takes place online.
A prime example would be the increase in the number of fake payment receipts on apps like Cash App, scam calls to instigate someone to share their PIN or bank account details, fraudulent sweepstakes that promise to give large amounts of cash to participants in the exchange of a smaller fee and much more. Before we get down to discussing penalties and fines for online scams, let’s talk about the most common types that happen everyday around us.
1. Scammers contact through random pop-up messages on the screen while a user is browsing. They will suggest a virus clean as your device is running a risk of attack. But as soon as the user allows them access to the computer or pays them for services they promise to offer, they will be able to look into personal or financial information stored in the computer or add spyware.
2. Fraudulent parties try to get users’ attention by offering instant payment jobs or employment opportunities that pay a large sum of money. They will then request to fill a form online with personal data that they can misuse and disappear. As a general rule of thumb, any job opportunity that does not require proper documentation, offers a too-good-to-be-true payscale and promises to give you a job without an interview is probably a red flag.
3. Users get “emergency” email from scammers posing as a friend or a family member who need immediate assistance. They will try to make the situation sound as urgent as they can. Some even disguise voices using audio software and call through fraudulent caller IDs. Typically, they will request money for a medical emergency or a loan that they have to pay back. Listen very closely as that can help you identify if anything is suspicious.
The Federal Government Takes Online Frauds Very Seriously
With a drastic increase in numbers, online scams have become a serious threat to the public. Now, as per state laws, you can get jailed for online scams.
The penalty for wire fraud is up to 20 years in prison. However, the exact number of years greatly depends on how much money was scammed, criminal history, etc.
Cases that come to light are different from time to time so the penalty years are different as well. However, it is important to note that online scams are punishable with jail time in almost all states. You can get jailed in California, Florida, Washington, Newyork and almost all major states in the US if you are caught scamming someone online.
What If You Get Wrongly Accused?
The law will not convict you with proper proof. When you are under investigation, it is important to hire a reliable lawyer if you think you may have been the target of a scam that you have not done.
The federal government will inform you of the nature of the crime and let you know of the crimes you are suspected of committing. You should then contact your family and friends to request them to gather the information that can serve as proof that you are unrelated to the events.
It is also crucial to take family members into confidence because, under such circumstances, law enforcement will visit your home and question anyone related to you. If you have someone who could testify on your behalf, ensure he or she shows up on time to tackle the authorities.
As I have mentioned before, appropriate legal representation is important. Hire the best criminal defense attorney that you can afford and share all the details so he or she can guide you on the next possible step to take to protect your rights.
Apps and online services are convenient but you can never be careful enough. Although companies do their best to protect customers at all times, a portion of responsibility lies on your shoulders as well.
You should refrain from using public devices or giving out account information to someone you don’t personally know. This makes it easier for fraudulent parties to scam you or hurt you financially.