The difference between wire fraud and mail fraud

On Behalf of | Aug 31, 2022 | Blog, Mail & Wire Fraud Defense

Mail fraud and wire fraud are both examples of white-collar crimes. These are nonviolent crimes that are typically financially motivated and involve a level of deceit or deception. Since both mail and wire fraud involve interstate jurisdiction, these crimes are prosecuted by the federal Department of Justice instead of the state of California. Mail and wire fraud have many similarities, but anyone facing a potential charge should understand the differences between them.

What is mail fraud?

Federal prosecutors classify any scheme that involves the intent to defraud using the interstate mail system as mail fraud. Usage of the mail does not have to be a major part of the effort to defraud, and the defendant in a mail fraud case does not have to actually send fraudulent material through the mail. As long as the intent to use the federal mailing system exists within the overall scheme, a charge of mail fraud can be issued.

You can also be charged with mail fraud if you intend to use the mail to engage in unlawful activities, such as:

  • Extortion
  • Racketeering
  • Bribery
  • Gambling
  • Drug or alcohol violations

What is wire fraud?

Wire fraud occurs when you use electronic communication to commit fraud. An intent to commit fraud through electronic communications can also count as wire fraud. The broad definition of “electronic communication” can include:

  • Social media
  • Phone
  • Email
  • Faxes
  • Websites

Social Security schemes, phishing, and the Nigerian prince email scam are examples of wire fraud.

How serious are mail and wire fraud charges?

Mail and wire fraud charges can result in decades of prison time and up to half a million dollars in fines. The federal government treats these crimes seriously, and you should do the same if you face these charges.