There is no doubt that scamming others is wrong, but can you go to jail for scamming online?. The simple answer is Yes, but there’s more to it that you must to know.
In this article, we will discuss what the law says about scamming online, examples of online scamming schemes, the charges, penalties and sentencing for people convicted for scamming online. We also answer some related questions on online scamming. Keep reading to know more.
What is online scamming?
Online scamming involves the stealing of information, money or property by fraudulent businesses or individuals through misrepresentations and other deceptive means via the internet.
Such people either use catfishing accounts (Fake online profiles), false advertising, phishing, email and other means to get unsuspecting victims to part with their money, information or anything of value to the scammer.
Examples of Online scams
Several forms of online activities that others end up losing money, information or property may qualify as an online scam. These include:
1. Romance and dating scam
The widest and most popular form of online scamming is the romance scam. It involves a scammer creating a fake profile on dating sites and social media to romantically attract a person, then go on to fake a relationship.
With time, the scammer begins to make demands and by the time the victim will realize it was a scam, they’d have lost so much money to the scammer.
2. Shopping scam
Online shopping is a convenient way to get things you need without having to step out, but the downside is, there are so many people out to get your hard-earned cash by posing as genuine businesses.
This phenomenon is more rampant on social media websites like Instagram and Facebook, where these scammers open a business page, advertise items at prices too good to be true. When you order, you’re asked to either pay part or full price before item is dispatched.
Others only ask you to pay the delivery fee in order to appear genuine, but once you make payment, that will be the end of it. You won’t get the items or the money back. They simply go ahead to block you.
3. Crypto currency pump and dump scam
The world is crazy about crypto, and just like any booming sector, scammers have found a way to cash in on the interest in crypto currency. The modus operandi is the pump and dump scheme. It involves scammers creating a crypto currency and inflating the price through speculation to get the interest of crypto lovers.
Once people start buying and they make enough cash, there’s what is called a dump, which brings the price tumbling down. The few insider’s cash in, and others lose their investment when the value of the crypto currency plummets.
4. Phishing scam
Phishing scams involves the use of websites mimicking reputable institutions like banks, credit card company, government institution among others, which steals your sensitive information once entered on the website.
They achieve this through email marketing where you receive emails branded to look like it’s from the reputable institution. The email will then direct you to the phishing site which looks similar to the official website of the company where your information will be stolen once you enter your details.
5. Money flipping scam
In this type of scam, victims are told their money can be flipped and doubled within a few minutes if they commit a certain amount. Such schemers accept electronic mobile payments such as Cash App and then vanish into thin air.
Victims end up losing their hard-earned money. A typical example of a money flipping scam is the Cash App $100 to $100 scheme which promises an 8-fold return if you commit $100.
6. Business email compromise (BEC) scam
This type of scam targets businesses and usually end up stealing huge sums of money meant for business transactions.
These online scammers exploit a business email, monitor outgoing and incoming email, intercept and divert emails containing payments to their back accounts instead of that of the actual business.
They achieve this by sending an email to the business partner, claiming the payment details have changed, and provide a supposedly updated payment details which will be the bank details of the scammers. The unsuspecting business partner or company sends the money, and it ends up in the scammer’s account.
7. Fake lottery scamming online
This is another format that online scammers use to defraud their victims. Victims receive a notification via email or other media congratulating them for winning a lottery they can’t remember participating in.
They’re led to a site where they have to divulge information and pay for delivery to receive their price. The fictitious price never arrives and there goes your money. The way to prevent this is to avoid clicking links to supposed competitions that you didn’t even enter.
Can you go to jail for scamming online?
Yes, you can go to jail for scamming online in some serious cases. If you’re arrested for online scamming, you could face any of the following charges depending on the nature of your scam activities.
- Wire fraud
- Identity theft
- Money laundering
The difficulty with online scams is that, mostly, the perpetrators are foreign, out of state or difficult to trace. Also, unless substantial amounts are involved, it doesn’t make financial sense to go after them.
For example, suspected international scammer, Ray Hushpuppi has been sentenced to 11 years in prison for charges of defrauding many businesses and individuals of millions of dollars through his cyber fraud and online scamming activities. He was arrested in Dubai and extradited to the US to face criminal charges.
Penalties and sentencing for scamming online
When online scammers are arrested and convicted, they face penalties such as restitution of the property they fraudulently took from their victims, and in certain instances, jail time.
Online scamming crimes can be prosecuted as a misdemeanor or felony depending on the severity and amount involved. The penalty includes fines of up to $10,000 and a sentence of up to 3 years in jail.
The court may choose to issue alternative sentencing to allow a person convicted of internet scamming to engage in community service rather than going to jail.
In California for example, any person convicted under the 2005 Anti-Phishing Act faces prison sentence, restitution and hefty fines for using the internet or email to trick others into providing personally identifying and sensitive information (phishing).
In serious cases, you can go to jail for scamming online when arrested. But in small online scamming cases, restitution and fines are a likely outcome. You have to be careful when dealing with people and businesses online, especially when the offer is too good to be true.
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