As Coloradoans Shut In, Law Enforcement Expects Computer Fraud to Rise
Posted By: Jacob Martinez
Law enforcement is watching the web and shifting its target to digital scams as more and more Coloradoans are turning to online purchase solutions during this time of social distancing.
With people stuck at home and more people online, reports of computer fraud increases are already making it into the Denver news cycle.
Some of the most commonly reported crimes include price gouging through online forums, identity theft, and other computer crimes. Consider this fair warning, the commotion around coronavirus isn’t hindering law enforcement efforts.
How Computer Fraudsters are Generally Found in Denver
Many people have the feeling of being anonymous online. This has created a whole host of issues including higher rates of cyberbullying and cyberstalking in the last few years.
During times of wide-spread panic (like the current pandemic), some cybercriminals see it as an opportunity. This couldn’t be further from the truth.
For many of the crimes being reported during the coronavirus, such as price gouging, finding the suspect is as easy as tracking down a listing or setting up a sting to purchase the item in question. Most offenders in these areas aren’t really life-long criminals, and many believe they are simply taking a capitalist approach to business.
Other criminals, such as those who engage in identity theft, are more likely to require the services of a digital forensics examiner. Investigators use the latest digital forensics tools to track down these more tech-savvy criminals.
They can even crack open a wide range of encrypted devices from phones to laptops to find evidence that can help prosecutors build their cases. That includes evidence you think you’ve deleted.
Colorado’s Computer Crime Statute
Many states around the country have adopted a uniform computer crime law to make prosecuting digital criminals easier. Colorado is no different.
The Colorado Computer Crime Law outlines computer crimes as accessing or using a computer, computer network, or computer system under the following circumstances:
- without authorization or exceeding authorized access or use;
- for the purpose of devising or executing any scheme or artifice to defraud;
- to obtain, by means of false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises, money; property; services; passwords or similar information
- to commit theft;
- for altering, damaging, interrupting or causing the interruption or impairment of the proper functioning of any device or component of them without authority;
Colorado also considers causing the transmission of a computer program, software, information, code, data, or command electronically with the intent to cause damage to, or the interruption or impairment of proper functioning (and/or succeeding in your actions) a crime, as well.
Running automatic software applications that can circumvent or disable any technology meant to regulate sales (think waiting periods on event tickets) can also land you computer fraud charges.
Punishment for Violating Computer Crime Laws in Colorado
Penalties for violating the Colorado Computer Crime law range from misdemeanors to felonies. The determining factor in penalty severity is the total financial amount of damages caused by the crime committed:
- <$50 Value: Class 1 Petty Offense
- $50 – $299 Value: Class 3 Misdemeanor
- $300 – $749 Value: Class 2 Misdemeanor
- $750 – $1,999 Value: Class 1 Misdemeanor
For misdemeanor convictions, you stand to face anywhere from a few days up to 18 months in jail and your fines could still reach into the thousands. When the value of your computer crimes exceeds the $2,000 mark, charges are elevated to felony status.
If you think a couple of thousand dollars in fines is going to break your bank, prepare to be shocked by felony penalty ranges. Even the lowest felony computer crime conviction could wind up costing you up to $100,000. Higher damages can land you a decade or more in prison and reach a million dollars in penalties.
Don’t wind up caught in the wave of computer fraud Colorado law enforcement is expecting. And if you do, don’t face computer crime charges without the proper Colorado legal counsel advising you. There are defenses for Colorado computer fraud crimes, and you’re going to need experience in your corner.
About the Author:
Denver-based criminal defense and DUI attorney Jacob E. Martinez is a knowledgeable and experienced litigator with a record of success providing innovative solutions to clients facing criminal charges of any severity. Mr. Martinez has been recognized by countless legal organizations for his exemplary defense work, including Avvo, Best DWI Attorneys, Expertise, Lawyers of Distinction, The National Trial Lawyers, and others. He was also named one of the 10 Best in Client Satisfaction in Colorado by the American Institute of Criminal Law Attorneys for 2020, and is Lead Counsel rated.