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. These can include a phone call, a fax, an email, a text, or social media messaging, among others.

Understanding Wire Fraud

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) that the defendant voluntarily and intentionally devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money; 2) that the defendant did so with the intent to defraud; 3) that 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 crime in which a person schemes to defraud or obtain money using electronic communications or an interstate communications facility.

Wire fraud is a federal crime with sentences varying considerably, anywhere from not more than five years to life in prison, according to the Congressional Research Service Report. It also comes 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. A person need not have actually defrauded someone or personally sent a fraudulent communication to be convicted of wire fraud. It is sufficient to prove the intent to defraud or acting with knowledge of fraudulent communications being sent.

A History of Wire Fraud

Not long ago, in order to perpetrate a scheme fraudsters had to rely on the telephone and make hundreds of calls to try to hook a hapless, gullible retiree or lonely heart. 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, and a promise of untold riches or 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.