What Is Computer Fraud?

What is computer fraud? It is important to look at all aspects of computer fraud in order to truly get an idea of the complexity and reach of this form of crime. Many of us have heard about email scams, investment scams and other forms of fraud that are done with computers and the internet. These would be examples of computer fraud. Simply stated, computer fraud is the process of deliberately misrepresenting or altering data for the purposing of gaining something of value. This may be financial gain, gaining an unfair competitive advantage and software piracy. Computer fraud can take place in many forms. What types of computer fraud are there? Computer fraud can be identity theft, malicious software, internet scams and more. Listed here are a few common examples of computer and internet fraud.

Identity Theft Identity theft is a growing threat across the globe that is a form of computer fraud in which the criminal uses personally identifiable information such as name, address and social security number to assume your identity for making purchases and accessing banking information. This form of computer fraud can be devastating to the victim and comes with serious financial loss and stress. The perpetrator will usually use a method called “phishing” to get information from you. Typically the victim may receive an email from a known, trusted source such as a bank. This source will ask them to log into their website at a specified address, which is not the legitimate address. When the victim logs in, their username and password is recorded by the fraudulent software and is used to gain more information or access to the user's bank account.

Malicious Software Malicious software is a form of fraud in which a small program is placed on a computer and installed, inadvertently, by the user. Once this program is installed it can do everything from stealing personal data and files to logging the keystrokes a user types and the sites they are viewing. Imagine that you are booking travel tickets for a family vacation and unbeknownst to you, someone is receiving every keystroke you make, including name, credit card number, security code and other information.

Scams Computer fraud scams are a huge class in themselves. They can range from internet investment scams, internet auction scams and phishing scams. One of the most popular computer scams that came about was a PayPal scam. PayPal is a popular form of transferring money through the internet to legitimate businesses and individuals. In one scam, the fraudulent computer users would send fake emails resembling an email one might get from PayPal. This email would report that suspicious activity had taken place with the recipients PayPal account and that verification was required to protect the recipient. The recipient would then enter in their PayPal information and return the email to the sender for verification. At this point the sender now has the victim's PayPal information for their own use. This type of scam uses scare tactics to convince the victim to give personal information in trying to protect themselves from some unfortunate circumstances.

The Cost Computer fraud costs victims dearly. Here are just a couple of the more recent major computer fraud incidents and the amount of money they cost their victims.

  • The Nigerian Letter Fraud–Cost an average of $5,100 per victim.
  • Check Fraud–Cost the average victim $3,744.
  • Investment Fraud–Average cost to the victim was $2,695.
  • Confidence Fraud–Average cost was $2,400 per victim.
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