What is Wire Fraud

Wire fraud is a crime in which a person concocts a scheme to defraud or obtain money based on false representation or promises. This criminal act is done using electronic communications or an interstate communications facility.


The U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Resource Manual Section 941.18 U.S.C. 1343 cites these as the key elements of wire fraud: 1) a person voluntarily and intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money; 2) that person did so with the intent to defraud; 3) it was reasonably foreseeable that interstate wire communications would be used; and 4) that interstate wire communications were in fact used. Wire fraud is a federal crime punishable up to 30 years in jail along with fines and restitution. The statute of limitations to bring a charge is five years, unless the wire fraud targeted a financial institution, in which case the statute of limitations is 10 years.

Wire Fraud in the Modern Era

Not long ago, fraudsters had to rely on the telephone and make hundreds of calls to try to hook a hapless, gullible, lonely retiree or lonely heart to perpetrate a scheme. The old-fashioned phone call is still employed as a means to contact prey, but today, with the awesome power of the internet to find potential victims, a fraudster's work can be done online with a few fake postings of pictures, a tale of woe, a promise of untold riches or promise of everlasting love — and all of this can be written with bad grammar and spelling. If you get such messages or solicitations to send $10,000 to a stranger, delete them right away. Don't become a victim of wire fraud.