Fraud serves as a severe crime in whatever context it appears in. In particular, mail and wire fraud have often ended up confused for one another because of the similarities they share, but each has its own distinct definition and associated penalties.
Though mail fraud topped the list of the most common types of fraudulent activities, some speculate that wire fraud will dethrone it – if that has not already happened.
Defining wire fraud
The Department of Justice focuses on elements of wire fraud. Wire fraud involves the parting of a victim from their assets, right to honest services, or money through means of deception. However, the key feature is that it must take place over electronic mediums.
In older days, this primarily included telegraphs or phone messages, i.e. things transferred directly over “the wire”. These days, it also includes anything sent over the internet. This includes emails, text messages, instant messages, posts to forums, video chat or voice chat and more. It also includes things like faxing.
A common example of wire fraud is the Nigerian prince scam. In the early 2000s, a common phishing scam involved a supposed Nigerian prince emailing people individually and asking for bank information or other forms of money to make it through a financial crisis, promising to pay the individual back later. Naturally, this never happened.
The rise of wire fraud
Mail fraud – which has similar features but takes place via the mail instead – once made up most cases of fraud. However, with the internet growing ever larger and scams growing more refined, wire fraud has become more of a problem for the legal system in recent years. Speculations indicate that this trend will continue for the foreseeable future.