What is a Phishing Scheme? Is it a Federal Crime?

 Posted on October 22, 2021 in Computer Crime

chicago defense lawyerWhether you have heard this type of scheme referred to as “phishing” or not, you are likely familiar with the scheme itself. “Phishing” involves pretending to be someone else in order to gain access to sensitive information. While no specific federal statute criminalizes phishing specifically, phishing is a common precursor to other internet crimes, like identity theft and wire fraud. If you are facing a criminal charge as a result of a phishing scheme, you should make securing strong legal representation your top priority. 

What is Phishing? 

Phishing is when a scammer sends an email or makes a phone call impersonating someone else in an effort to gain access to sensitive information. One common example of a phishing scheme is when someone sends out a mass email pretending to be from a bank and asking recipients to turn over personal information, such as their social security number or account numbers. The phisher then uses that fraudulently obtained information to steal the victim’s identity. 

Corporations are common targets in phishing schemes as well. Criminals attempting to gain access to trade secrets or corporate accounts may impersonate corporate officials, call employees asking for login information, or instruct them to send money. Phishers hope that employees will simply comply with a request they believe is coming from their boss. 

Is Phishing a Federal Crime? 

Phishing is not by itself a federal crime. What probably is a federal crime is whatever goal the phishing scheme hoped to accomplish. Phishing schemes are a means to a (criminal) end. In the banking example above, the phisher’s goal is to get people to give up their personal information so the phisher can commit identity theft. When a corporation is targeted, the phisher may be trying to commit wire fraud, violate a copyright, or commit another white-collar financial crime. 

Because phishing schemes generally involve perpetrators and victims in different states or otherwise touch interstate commerce, a person initiating a phishing scheme is likely to find himself charged with a federal crime. Evidence of phishing is often used to show that a defendant was attempting some type of federal financial crime. 

Call a Chicago Internet Crimes Attorney

If you have been charged with a federal white-collar crime related to a phishing scheme, you will need an experienced and capable Chicago internet crimes lawyer to build your defense. The Law Offices of Hal M. Garfinkel defends people in the Chicago area accused of all types of federal white-collar financial crimes. Call 312-629-0669 for a free consultation. 



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