Telephone fraud

Telephone fraud

Telephone fraud, also known as telemarketing fraud, covers a wide range of crimes. The common goal of such fraud is to deceive the victim into parting with money or valuable personal information, such as bank accounts and credit card numbers. Commonly reported phone scams include:

  • Pyramid schemes: Victims are persuaded to buy into a business model that promises high returns but never delivers.
  • Charity fraud: This scam solicits charity donations under fraudulent circumstances.
  • Checking account fraud: Con artists deposit counterfeit checks, counterfeit bank or money orders in a victim’s bank account and ask them to wire funds to another party. Eventually, the victim’s bank will freeze their account and leave them responsible for the money.
  • Travel fraud: Victims pay small sums to cover taxes and fees on a vacation prize, only to learn that no vacation exists.
  • Advance Fee Fraud: This common ruse cons victims into paying a small fee to collect a much larger (and non-existent) cash prize.

The Consumer Protection from Deceptive Acts and Practices (NY Code Article 22-A) mandates that anyone who engages in telephone fraud be fined up to $500 for each violation. Restitution may also be ordered, especially if the victims were elderly.   In addition, individuals who engage in telephone fraud may be charged with violations of New York State laws, resulting in a fine, imprisonment or both. Federal penalties are harsher: under 18 U.S. Code § 2326, anyone found guilty of committing or conspiring to commit telephone fraud can be imprisoned for up to five years (up to 10 years if their victims were over 55).

Mobile phone fraud

Unlike telemarketing scams, those engaged in mobile phone fraud use a cell phone as more than just a way of communicating fraudulent information. Below are some common examples of mobile phone scams:

  • Mining lost or stolen cell phones for personal information or using them to make unauthorized calls
  • Cloning someone else’s phone so that their account can be used without their permission
  • Downloading ringtones which contain information-mining viruses
  • Fake text messages that tell phone owners that their account is suspended and ask for financial or personal information to ‘fix’ the problem

When cell phones are used in a scam, federal authorities may get involved. Under the Wireless Telephone Protection Act of 1998, the possession, use, manufacturing, or sale of cloning software or hardware can result in a fine and 15 years in prison upon conviction, even for a first offender. Potential ancillary charges include identity theft and other fraud-related offenses, all of which can translate into decades in prison upon conviction.

If you have been charged with any type of telephone fraud (or believe that you are about to be), then contact a New York criminal defense attorney immediately. Because this type of fraud robs Americans of millions of dollars every year, prosecution is aggressive, and the penalties are harsh.

Your attorney will go over your case for any valid defenses. Perhaps your advertisement really did comply with the Federal Trade Commission statutes and a mistake was made. The mobile phone cloning hardware found in your car could have been left there by someone else. The evidence against you might also have been illegally obtained. Whatever the approach your defense takes, an experienced legal professional will give you the best chance of getting favorable results with the issue at hand. Julie Rendelman is a New York City criminal defense lawyer with over 20 years of experience. She offers free consultations and can be reached at 212-951-1232. Ms. Rendelman appears regularly in court and is also a tough negotiator outside of the courtroom. Visit to learn more about fraud and the law.