Ever since the Internet became available, certain people have attempted to carry out activities online which our federal government doesn’t like. As a result, there has been enormous growth in the number of new federal criminal laws, any of which could put you in federal prison for years. Even if you’re not convicted, you may still be facing civil forfeiture, where federal law enforcement can seize any money or property it deems likely to be related to criminal activity.
The reality is, no one even knows how many federal criminal laws and administrative rules exist, but here are a few Internet crimes may need to be aware of, in order of seriousness:
6. Betting on sports
18 U.S. Code § 1084 is a federal law prohibiting the transmission of wagering information. Being or using an online bookie could get you fined, imprisoned for 2 years, or both.
5. Electronic harassment
Sending obscene or harassing emails or texts to an ex, for example, might violate federal statute 47 U.S. Code § 223, which calls for a fine, 2 years in federal prison, or both.
4. Phishing or spoofing scams
Setting up an email or website that mimics a legitimate one in order to obtain personal information to be used to commit fraud or any crime — a fine and up to 5 years in federal prison under 18 U.S. Code § 1037.
3. Criminal copyright infringement
Downloading bit torrents? Under 18 U.S. Code § 2319, willfully sharing 10 copies, or $2,500 worth of copyrighted material for gain could get you up to 5 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, or both.
2. Accessing stored communications
Under 18 U.S. Code § 1030, the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, hacking into someone’s email or computer system for gain, for the purpose of malicious destruction, or in order to further any crime, you could be fined and sentenced to up to 10 years in prison — 20 for a repeat offense.
1. Non-delivery of merchandise
18 U.S. Code § 1343 is the federal wire fraud statute, which applies to many types of Internet fraud. If you were to offer an item for sale online, say, and accept payment but never deliver, you could be fined up to $1,000,000 and imprisoned for up to 30 years.