As internet crime becomes more prevalent across the U.S., it’s important to know how to protect yourself against it, but also to know how to protect yourself if you are accused of it.

People Fear Internet Crime and Want More Security

According to a survey of 2,028 U.S. adults conducted in September by the Harris Poll, nearly 3 out of 4 adults have change their online behaviors as a result of the threat of cybercrime. That means that 74% of those surveyed believe that they needed to change their habits in order to remain safe when using the internet.

The most common changes in habits were not conducting private transactions on shared computers, changing passwords more often, not providing personal information when online, and not using private Wi-Fi connections.

What’s the cause behind the changes in internet habits?

The answer points to the perceived amount of security that exists when one logs on to a computer. Data breaches were up 23% in 2014. Of the respondents surveyed, 42% answered that they feel less secure than they did when using the internet five years ago. Additionally, 44% of those polled had experienced a security breach first-hand.

Yet, despite the fact that users had changed habits, and also feel less secure, 81% of those polled have not invested in theft protection when it comes to online theft or identity theft.

It seems that people still have some faith. Despite the fact that the health care industry experiences more data breaches (37% in 2014) than any other sector, still 68% of U.S. adults still trust health care providers with their personal data. And close to 68% adults also trust the financial sectors. 67% trust the education sectors.

Those most negatively viewed were the retail and government sector. Only half of consumers trust the retail industry with their information. And even less, 41%, trust the government with private information.

Of those polled, 93% want the public and private sectors to increase their crime protecting services, including more investment in cyber security or an increase in qualified personnel to handle cybercrime.

How to Protect Your Identity Online

With the amount of fear that people feel when logging on, you should know there are ways to be smart when it comes to cyber security. Here are some things you can do to protect yourself:

  • Create “complicated” passwords that no one could logically guess. These passwords should contain upper and lowercase letters, numbers and other characters.
  • Do not open email attachments that come from unknown sources. These attachments can contain viruses that allow criminals to access your computer.
  • Use a firewall and keep it current. This can help to block viruses from infiltrating your computer.
  • Most companies have strict policies when it comes to asking for information online, and thus do not usually ask for too much important information. If you feel that there you are being asked for questionable information, it’s best to contact the organization directly by phone or confirmed email.

Being Accused of Cybercrime

With the prevalence of cybercrime being so high, it’s also important to know what to do if you are accused of committing online crime.

The federal government and individual states all have laws that criminalize various types of behavior that occurs on computers, computer systems, and the internet. If you are accused of this type of crime, you’ll want to now the potential penalties you could face.

What is “Computer Crime”?

A number of offenses fall under the category of “computer crime.” It’s defined as any crime that either targets a computer, or that uses a computer to commit a crime. Computer crime can also fall under several different state or federal laws. Here are some basic types of computer crime:

  • Unlawful use or access. Based on the state you live in, it might be illegal to use or access someone else’s computer without permission or authority. This type of crime typically includes cases where a person physically accesses someone else’s computer by directly using it, gains access electronically, or uses a virus to hack into or gain access to another person’s computer.
  • Gaining access for fraudulent purposes. Some states have laws that punish people for using a computer in order to accomplish a fraudulent act. This means that if you use a computer, computer software, or computer network to fraudulently obtain goods or services of any kind you can face consequences.
  • Data theft. Accessing, copying, damaging, or altering information you don’t have permission to use can be considered a computer crime. Some states have additional penalties for cases wherein the data theft results in damage. There are often less severe penalties for thefts that do not result in data being damaged, altered, or destroyed.
  • Child pornography. The federal government and all 50 states have laws that agree it is a crime to make, posses, or transmit images child pornography. There are also laws that prohibit the transmission of harmful materials to children.

In these laws, “harmful materials” include: sexual or pornographic images that are legal for adults to view, but are harmful to, or inappropriate for, children.

What is “Internet Crime”?

Computer crimes cover a wide range of actions, but”internet crime” laws apply to activity that specifically involves the internet in some way, including: emails, websites, and using the internet to commit identity theft or other fraud. There are unique federal and individual state laws that rule over internet crime.

  • Luring and/or soliciting children. Most states have laws that make it a crime for a person aged 18 years or older to use the internet to communicate, solicit, lure, or entice a child (usually under the age of 16) to engage in a sexual act. A person can be in violation of these laws if they believe the person is 16 years or younger, even if that person is actually an adult.
  • Online harassment, stalking, and bullying. Some states have laws criminalizing the useof the internet to stalk, harass, or make criminal threats against another person. Typically these state laws require that the threats made must be credible. The state’s law might also punish internet communications that have the intention to threaten or harass even if the threat is not credible. As of late, some states have enacted cyber bullying laws criminalizing harassment aimed specifically towards minors.
  • Additional laws. Some federal and state crimes apply to both computer and internet criminal cases. An example of this is federal wire fraud, where a person uses a computer or electronic communications device to fraudulently obtain someone else’s property.
  • New laws. As more and more people use computers and the internet, laws are regularly introduced to protect victims of online crime.

Penalties for Computer and Internet Crime

There are numerous types of computer and internet crimes, and thus there are also various penalties you could face if you are accused of one of these crimes. Here is an overview of those penalties:

  • Fines. A misdemeanor conviction could result infines of a few hundred dollars to $1,000 or more. Felony convictions can have fines that exceed $100,000.
  • Jail or prison. The most serious crimes can result in a prison sentence of 20 years or more.
  • Probation. Probation terms differ widely, but typically start at least one year. During probation, a person is required to not commit additional crimes, maintain employment, report to a probation officer, and pay all associated court costs and fines.

These penalties are severe, not to mention the additional repercussions you could face if you are accused of a computer or internet crime.

Working with an Attorney

Being accused of a computer or internet crime is not something that should be taken lightly. Even if you are not convicted, you could face losing your job or suffer the serious stigma of having been accused of a crime. These types of cases can be very complicated because they can involve both state and federal laws. You’ll want to work with a defense attorney that has the effective defense strategy to take on state and federal computer crime laws.

At the Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman, we apply our extensive knowledge of the criminal justice system to aggressively defend clients accused of committing Internet crimes, including:

  • Online credit card fraud
  • Identity theft
  • Bank fraud
  • Forgery scams
  • Telecommunications fraud
  • Other types of Internet fraud
  • Software piracy
  • Craigslist-related crimes
  • Child pornography offenses
  • Other Internet sex crimes

Attorney Daniel Perlman will investigate the evidence obtained against you to determine if the charges fit the crime you allegedly committed. In all cases, this includes evaluating whether the prosecution has enough evidence to prove criminal intent. We will consult industry-leading experts, including Internet and computer specialists, when necessary to bolster your defense.

Contact Our Law Firm Today

At the Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman, we have the legal knowledge, technical savvy and practical experience to help clients fight all types of Internet-related criminal charges. To schedule a free consultation, contact us today at 562-287-5333, at 562-287-5333 or by e-mail.

Daniel R. Perlman, Esq.
Law Offices of Daniel R. Perlman