Phishing is an illegal activity that involves the use of computers, the Internet, software or electronic hardware to compromise or steal personal information. Typical online scam behaviors include stealing usernames, using deceit to acquire passwords, stealing credit card information and identity theft in Houston.
Growth of Texas Internet Crimes
This type of crime has experienced a large growth in frequency as public access to the Internet has increased. Entire sections of police departments and major branches of federal law enforcement offices have been dedicated exclusively to pursuing the prevention and prosecution of cyber crimes.
Phishing Legal Penalties
The penalties for online fraud, email scams and Internet theft attempts are numerous and extensive.
Depending on the amount of money or data that was compromised in an Internet crime, prosecutors may charge the alleged offender with a misdemeanor or a felony. Some online fraud scams may be prosecuted at the federal level, especially those that transport money over state lines. Such crimes may be charged as wire fraud, which is a federal offense.
According to the Business and Commerce Code, some penalties for this offense may include:
- Jail or prison time of one year or more
- Fines ranging from several thousand dollars to more than $10,000
- Mandatory restitution of all stolen funds
- Additional civil penalties of up to $100,000 per offense
- Criminal probation
Legal Defenses for Stealing Information
Defending against charges of Internet crimes may present a legal difficulty in Texas. Law enforcement agencies may use sophisticated computer software and experienced agents to prove culpability in identity theft cases.
Defense strategies for these cases usually involve a defense attorney negotiating a plea bargain. A skilled attorney may be able to arrange for certain terms of probation in exchange for no jail time.
For example, a defense attorney may be able to convince the prosecution to drop certain charges in exchange for restitution on the part of the defendant. The probation terms may also include a ban on computer use or access for the defendant.
Additionally, the prosecution may be willing to drop some charges if the Houston defendant agrees to name other participants in the crime. Before deciding to cooperate with law enforcement, the defendant should hire an experienced attorney.