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Wire Fraud


Wire Fraud is a federal offense and refers to the use of interstate wire communication systems to carry out fraudulent activities for personal gain. It involves intentional deception resulting in financial or property loss for one party. These fraudulent activities include, but are not limited to, schemes to defraud, false advertising, investment scams, and phishing.


The phonetics of the keyword “Wire Fraud” is: /wʌɪə frɔːd/

Key Takeaways

  1. Definition: Wire fraud is a criminal act that involves schemes to intentionally defraud people or organizations of money or property, using electronic means, typically involving interstate, foreign commerce, or the internet.
  2. Penalties: Penalties for wire fraud are severe. If found guilty, individuals may face up to 20 years in prison, or even up to 30 years if the fraud involves a financial institution or is connected to a major disaster or emergency. There are also often significant fines.
  3. Prevention: Prevention of wire fraud includes using secure and encrypted channels for financial transactions, regularly updating security software, educating employees about possible schemes, and verifying all organizations and individuals before transferring funds.


Wire fraud is a crucial term in business and finance because it refers to a federal felony offense, involving the use of any type of telecommunication or electronic means to intentionally deceive others with the intent of gaining unauthorized control over another’s property or assets. The advent of modern technology and digital transactions has made businesses ever more vulnerable to such fraudulent activities. Wire fraud’s significance lies in its impact; it can lead to substantial financial losses for businesses, erosion of business credibility, and severe legal consequences. Therefore, understanding, detecting, and implementing measures to prevent wire fraud is important for the financial integrity and security of any business.


Wire fraud is a term that encapsulates any fraudulent activity involving the use of electronic communications or an interstate communications facility. It is a white-collar crime primarily used for financial gains wherein criminals attempt to defraud victims of their money or properties by making false promises, providing misleading information, or through other deceitful means. Typically, this type of fraud is carried out over telecommunication or information technology networks; hence the term ‘wire’. Examples include schemes like phishing emails asking for private financial information, fraudulent investment opportunities, or lottery scams.Wire fraud, in essence, is leveraged by fraudsters to steal from people or businesses. One key purpose for its execution is to illicitly gain access to sensitive information, primarily financial, that can be used to siphon off funds directly or can be sold for a profit. While historically this type of fraud was conducted over phone lines, in the age of the Internet, these schemes have become more widespread with the use of email and other online communication tools. The impact of wire fraud can be significant, dealing a hefty blow to individuals, businesses, and even economies if perpetrated on a large scale. Therefore, it’s critical for all to be aware and vigilant of such fraudulent activities.


1. Eron Mortgage Corporation Fraud: In the late 1990s, Andrew Lech was the president and founder of Eron Mortgage Corporation in Vancouver, Canada. However, he was not only illegally gaining funds from more than 2,000 investors through false information, but he was wiring these funds to offshore accounts. The FBI investigated the case, and Lech was eventually convicted of wire fraud and sentenced to prison.2. R. Allen Stanford’s Ponzi Scheme: One of the largest Ponzi schemes ever involved Texas financier R. Allen Stanford. Through wire fraud, Stanford convinced thousands of investors to purchase about $7 billion worth in certificates of deposits from his offshore bank. However, instead of investing the money, he wired the funds into fraudulent accounts for both his personal use and to pay back earlier investors, setting up a typical Ponzi scheme. This act of wire fraud cost many people their life savings.3. Volkswagen Fraud: Volkswagen’s emission scandal, also known as the “Dieselgate,” involved false claims about their cars’ emission standards. The company used software to deceive regulators and customers about how much pollutants their cars were releasing. But the wire fraud part comes in when Volkswagen engaged in deceptive communications and transactions over wires with U.S. regulators and customers. Volkswagen agreed to plead guilty to the charges against them, including conspiracy to commit wire fraud, and they paid out billions in fines and settlements.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

What is wire fraud?

Wire fraud is an illegal act that involves obtaining money or goods by deceiving individuals, businesses, or government entities via wire communication forms such as telephone, fax, television, radio, or internet.

How is wire fraud typically committed?

Wire fraud is often committed by tricking victims into transferring money or sending goods under false pretenses. This can be accomplished by forging documents, making false statements, or manipulating electronic data.

What are some common examples of wire fraud?

Examples of wire fraud can include email scams, falsified bank transfers, fraudulent investment schemes, false representation of a transaction or person, and various other types of deception conducted over electronic communication platforms.

What are the penalties for committing wire fraud?

Penalties could include incarceration, substantial fines, restitution to victims, as well as forfeiture of any property that was obtained as a result of the wire fraud.

Can a person be charged with wire fraud if they unintentionally deceived somebody?

No. The key component of wire fraud is intent, meaning the person must intentionally devise or participate in the scheme to defraud another entity.

What are the legal defenses against wire fraud charges?

Possible defenses could include lack of intent to defraud, duress, entrapment, or insufficient evidence. However, legal defense will depend on the specific circumstances of each case.

How can businesses protect themselves from wire fraud?

Businesses can protect themselves by implementing strong cybersecurity policies, conducting regular audits, educating their employees about signs of fraudulent behavior, and keeping their systems updated with the latest security measures.

Is wire fraud a federal crime?

Yes, wire fraud is considered a federal crime under U.S law. The Federal Wire Fraud Act makes it a crime to use interstate or international wire communications to defraud others.

Related Finance Terms

  • Phishing: A term that involves fraudulent attempts to obtain sensitive information over emails, pretending to be a trustworthy entity.
  • Identity Theft: An illegal practice where a criminal impersonates another person’s identity in order to commit fraud.
  • Money Laundering: The process of making large amounts of money generated from a crime appear to have come from a legitimate source.
  • Cyber Crime: Involves illegal activities that are committed over the internet, including scams, identity theft, and fraud.
  • Online Banking Fraud: Occurs when a person uses illegal means to retrieve a user’s online banking details, typically through the use of scams or malicious software.

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