Internet theft is a broad term that refers to any type of theft involving the use of the internet. These are also known as computer crimes or violations of cyberspace laws.
Since the internet is a relatively new phenomenon, the laws governing internet usage may vary widely according to region or state. However, the following types of internet activity can be classified under the broad umbrella term of “internet theft”:
- Phishing scams
- Bulk e-mail scams
- Online piracy (illegally downloading music, videos, etc.)
- Internet fraud scams
- Identity theft accomplished over the web
- Criminal activity associated with social networking sites
- Wi-Fi connection issues (i.e., using another persons’ account to perpetrate a theft)
What Types of Information Are Susceptible to Internet Theft?
There is a very wide range of information that may subject to theft over the Internet, including: names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, bank account information, and credit card information. Internet “thieves” often target such information and then use the stolen information to commit further crimes over the Internet.
Individuals should be very careful about providing personal or confidential information over the Internet. Even trusted sites can sometimes be subject to hacking. Also, seemingly “private” information on websites can sometimes be accessed by the public without the user being aware that their information is being shared.
What Is “Internet Theft of Service”?
The term “Internet theft” usually refers to the types of crimes listed above. However, “Internet theft of service” is a different type of crime that is usually listed in its own category. Internet theft of service involves the stealing of the Internet service itself. This may be accomplished by physically rerouting Internet cables, or by hacking into a wireless internet wi-fi connection account.
For example, if a person uses their neighbor’s Internet without their permission or without the permission of the Internet service provider, they can be subject to criminal penalties in some jurisdictions. Most Internet service-providing companies do not allow neighbors to share wi-fi, even if the subscribing party allows such sharing.
Another common example of Internet theft of service is called “mooching” or “piggybacking.” This is where a person sits near a Wi-Fi connection and is able to gain access to wi-fi internet service. This can occur due to an open connection, or at times, the “moocher” is able to break the person’s Internet password and use their Internet. This is also considered a crime in many states.
What Are the Penalties for Internet Theft Crimes?
Internet theft of service is considered a misdemeanor crime in many states, punishable by monetary fines and possible jail sentences. Other crimes, such as Internet piracy or Internet identity theft may be treated more seriously.. Also, repeat offenders can sometimes be subject to felony charges after a second or third Internet theft offense.
Most Internet theft crimes are done in conjunction with other types of crime. For example, pirated music or videos may be distributed in a larger trade circle of illegal goods. Or, persons who obtain identity information frequently and distribute such information through underground black markets or other illegal circles.
Internet theft charges can often result in complex lawsuits involving multiple crimes and parties.
Do I Need a Lawyer for Internet Theft Issues?
Internet theft crimes are serious and can also cause serious losses for the victim. If you suspect that you have been victimized by Internet theft, you may wish to contact a criminal lawyer for advice. Your lawyer may be able to help you recover your losses in a court of law. Alternatively, if you are facing Internet theft charges, an attorney can help defend you in court.