Internet / Cyber Crimes
State and federal governments are aggressively prosecuting internet crimes. Currently, there are not a lot of laws that formally include internet crimes, but it is a growing area of legislation in Texas. It is important to find a Houston Internet Crime Defense Lawyer familiar with both Texas and federal internet laws.
People commit crimes on the internet because it is easier to conceal their identities and stay anonymous. Do not think that crimes committed over the internet are treated more lightly than other crimes. Recently Texas and the federal government have passed legislation with stiff penalties for defendants convicted of Internet Crimes.
An Internet Crime is any criminal activity that is carried out primarily through the use of the Internet. Common Internet Crimes in Texas include:
- Internet Fraud
- Child Pornography
- Illegal Pornography
- Solicitation of a Minor
- Illegal Downloading
- Virus and Malware Distribution
- Identity Theft
If you’ve been charged with any of these offenses, it is important to seek the assistance of an experienced internet crime defense lawyer in Texas. Having an attorney familiar with internet crimes in Houston will greatly assist you in defending against an internet crime charge.
Houston Internet Crime Defense Attorney
Matt Horak has defended many Texans in the greater Houston area against internet crimes. Horak Law can help minimize the effect that an internet crime can have on your future.
If you have been arrested or charged with an internet crime call Matt Horak immediately for a consultation at (713) 225-8000.
Internet Crime Information Center
Internet Crimes carry serious consequences that can destroy your future. If you are charged with a cyber crime or other white collar offense you must find someone to defend you as soon as possible. The government imposes stiff fines and jail time for internet crimes and then there could be additional state charges to deal with in connection with your internet crime. For example, you could be charged with Internet Fraud by the federal government and have the lesser included charge of Fraud in the state court. Only a professional internet crime defense lawyer can sit down with you to go over the specific facts of your case.
- What are the different kinds of internet fraud?
- Where can I find Texas laws about internet crimes?
- What are some common phishing scams?
- Why is it illegal to download movies and music from some websites?
- How do I protect my identity from being stolen on the internet?
Fraud means tricking someone out of money or something else of value by lying or misrepresenting the facts. Frauds occur all the time without the internet. However, there are some frauds that are easier to do on the internet. Listed below are some common internet frauds.
- Internet Auction Fraud – Sites like e-bay allow sellers to place items for sale for buyers to bid on them. Sometimes the sellers are legitimate, but sometimes they place a description of an item and the buyer sends the money and never gets the item. E-bay tries to limit the number of fraudulent auctions but there are many other sites such as craigslist where people create fake auctions.
- Internet Credit Card Fraud – This involves phishing scams and credit card theft. Someone could steal your credits cards and use them online to buy a ton of merchandise. An online transaction contains fewer safeguards than if the thief tried to buy items with your credit card in the store.
- Internet Investment Fraud – Generally an online investment fraud deals with people overseas or out of state. You communicate online with the person and get details for a business or investment and then you wire the money to the person. More elaborate schemes might have you eventually meet the person and see more things to convince you the investment is legitimate. As a general rule if an investment promises an unrealistic return it is probably a scam.
Texas law provides for cyber and internet crimes that rely on new technologies. Chapter 16 of the Texas Penal Code provides for criminal offenses related to the misuse of the internet. Because the internet crosses state lines and even national borders, it is a good idea to distinguish between state and federal internet offenses. Below are the internet crimes recognized in the Texas Penal Code:
- §16.02 Unlawful Use of Criminal Instrument
- §16.03 Unlawful Interception, Use or Disclosure of Wire, Oral, or Electronic Communication
- §16.04 Unlawful Access to Stored Communications
- §16.05 Illegal Divulgence of Public Communications
- §16.06 Unlawful Installation of Tracking Device
As Texas lawmakers understand how criminals utilize the internet to commit crimes, they may add more sections to the code. It is essential to contact a Texas lawyer with knowledge regarding Texas internet laws and the federal cybercrime statutes because this area of law is constantly evolving. A good Houston internet crime lawyer can help challenge the internet crime charges and ensure a favorable resolution to your case.
Phishing occurs when a person attempts to option sensitive information such as passwords, bank account numbers, social security numbers and credit card numbers over the internet by posing as a legitimate agency. It is common for people to do banking online and buy things online so the basic phishing scam would take the form of an e-mail that looks like it comes from your bank requesting you provide your bank account information. Or sometimes you type in a search term looking for a business and a false website pops up and you enter sensitive information thinking you are dealing with the real business.
Businesses are trying to cut down on phishing websites by adding a number of security features to their websites. Also, filtering mechanisms are getting more sophisticated so your spam or junk mail filter should spot the majority of questionable e-mail. A good rule of thumb is to directly contact the business by phone or in person if you receive a questionable e-mail from them asking about password or account information. Banks and online stores generally will not e-mail requesting sensitive information. Delete or block all unsolicited e-mails in order to reduce the chance of getting entrapped in a phishing scam.
Usually, people download music and movies using torrents or peer to peer sharing programs. There is a common misconception that it is not illegal to stream and download content from these websites because the actual torrents and peer to peer sharing programs are not illegal. It is also wrongly believed that if you download content for your own use without distributing it you are not breaking the law. If you download music or movies without paying for it, you are stealing under the law.
Under Texas and federal law, there are stiff fines that can run as high as $150,000 for illegally downloading songs. It is possible to serve jail time in addition to the fines if you are in the habit of making downloads on a regular basis. It is imperative to get a lawyer familiar with both Texas and federal law if you are charged with illegally downloading music. The court will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law because they want to deter others from making illegal downloads. The music and movie industries lose a significant amount of revenue due to people downloading material without paying for it.
Some musicians have made deals with iTunes and other legitimate sites where you pay a small fee to get access to digital music. There are also monthly membership programs where you pay a fee to get a certain amount of songs per month. You get quality music and the musicians get compensated so if you want digital media please check into iTunes or some other site where you pay for the media you download.
You must be very vigilant about who you deal with over the internet. Remember identity thieves use the internet so that they can trick you into giving them sensitive information. When transacting business over the internet:
- Use an alternative id number beside your social security number
- Look for the Trust-E symbol or Better Business Bureau online seal on websites because these symbols indicate that they are a reputable business
- Read and understand the privacy policies and security measures on websites before you input information
Houston Area Cyber Crime Task Force – HACC Task Force consists of federal, state, and local law enforcement entities in the greater Houston area with jurisdiction over particular violations occurring on the Internet.
Internet Crime Complaint Center – Victims of internet crimes can use this reporting service to alert the authorities about the crime.
National Institute of Standards and Technology – NIST gives more information about computer security for the IT professional community.
Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the US Department of Justice – CCIPS provides specific information for different types of cyber crimes.
Horak Law | Texas Internet Crime Defense Attorney
Internet crimes carry harsh penalties for convicted defendants. If you are charged with an internet crime you must move quickly to obtain competent legal assistance. An experienced Houston criminal defense lawyer can assure an internet crime charge does not result in the maximum penalty.
Horak Law represents clients in Harris and Montgomery Counties, including Houston and surrounding areas. If you have a current arrest for an internet crime, contact Matt Horak today at (713) 225-8000.