Computer and Internet fraud refers to the perpetration of a fraud through the use of a computer or the Internet. A common form of this fraud is “hacking,” in which a criminal uses sophisticated technological tools to remotely access a computer with sensitive information. Another form of this fraud involves illegally intercepting an electronic transmission. This may result in the theft of someone’s password, credit card information or identity.
Federal statute defines computer fraud as the use of a computer to create a dishonest misrepresentation of fact as an attempt to induce another to do or refrain from doing something that causes loss. Criminals create fraudulent misrepresentation in a number of ways. First, they can alter computer input in an unauthorized fashion. Employees easily can use this method to alter input data and embezzle the difference. Second, criminals can alter or delete stored data. Third, sophisticated criminals can rewrite software codes and upload them into a bank’s mainframe so that the bank will provide its users’ identities to the thieves. The thieves then can use this information to make unauthorized credit card purchases.
The content on this page was developed in partnership with the Legal Information Institute, Cornell Law School.