In the days when all documents were on paper and most everything was sent through the mail or at least some type of courier, mail fraud was a more common offense than it is today. Nonetheless, they’re both federal crimes, and the consequences for conviction can be serious. Federal law defines mail fraud, in part, as “mailing of a letter, etc., for the purpose of executing the scheme.” The scheme refers to a “scheme to defraud.” Credit card fraud still often involves the mail. It’s important to note that even if a shipping company or courier is used for illegal activity, that’s still considered mail fraud. It doesn’t have to involve using the U.S. Postal Service. Although most federal crimes involve an activity that takes place in more than one state, that isn’t a requirement for committing mail fraud. What is wire fraud? Since more of our personal and business communications are online, wire fraud is understandably more common. Wire fraud involves illegal online or telecommunications activity. This includes text, email, social media, online apps and telephone calls. Specifically, according to federal law, if a person “devised or participated in a scheme to defraud another out of money” via “interstate wire communications,” they committed wire fraud. A conviction can carry a prison sentence of up to 20 years as well as fines of as much as $250,000. If there are special circumstances (for example, if the fraud targeted victims of a natural disaster), the penalties can be greater. Both wire and mail fraud are among the easier federal crimes for prosecutors to prove because there’s a trail of evidence. Even online transactions and messages, as almost everyone knows by now, don’t disappear when they’re deleted. If you’ve been charged with one of these crimes (or even if you believe you may be under investigation), it’s important to seek legal guidance as soon as possible to protect your rights. The post Wire fraud is more common today than mail fraud first appeared on Oakley & Oakley, LLC.