Though mail fraud once dominated fraud cases in the United States, matters have shifted somewhat in recent years. These days, more people tend to commit wire fraud instead.
But what is wire fraud, exactly? Does it differ from mail fraud in any significant way? And how does the law treat wire fraud?
What is the purpose of wire fraud?
The Department of Justice takes a look at wire fraud, oftentimes considered a counterpart to mail fraud. This is due to the fact that the charges refer to similar crimes that simply get carried out by different means.
The overall purpose of fraud is to separate a victim from their money, assets or access to honest services. In other words, the fraudster in question will set up a scenario that allows them to steal a victim’s money or gain unfair compensation.
Mail versus wire fraud
Mail fraud utilizes the United States Postal System in order to carry out this fraud. Think about spam letters you may have received in the past, promising services that seem too good to be true. Many of these were fraudulent schemes. Mail fraud can use packages, letters, postcards, magazines and anything else sent through the physical mail.
Wire fraud, on the other hand, utilizes digital means to achieve the same goals. This includes faxes, message boards, instant messages, emails, phone calls, and more.
Because of the increasing digitization of the modern world, more and more fraudsters take to these digital methods of communicating in order to defraud people. A popular example is the old, stereotypical spam email in which a false prince from a foreign country promised to invest money in exchange for cash up front.
Both wire and mail fraud hold similar penalties, with up to decades in jail and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. In either case, they are serious crimes.