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Four Common Internet Crimes & Their Penalties


When it comes to influential technology over the last couple of decades, you’d be hard-pressed to argue that the internet isn’t on the top of the list. While the worldwide web has enabled us to stay connected to each other easier and put a wealth of information right at our fingertips like never before, it’s also led to a whole new variety of crimes. While some of these offenses would never have been seen before, it’s also led to some offenses simply becoming more prominent.

On this blog, we’ll take a look at four fairly common internet-based criminal offenses and the penalties associated with them if you’re convicted in court.

Identity Theft

The invention of encryption to hide data that’s transferred over public utility lines has seen online businesses explode in popularity. Now the entire world is available for shopping right at your fingertips, but just how secure is the information you’re sending to your merchant? Likewise, just how trustworthy are they?

Identity theft, or the theft of personally identifiable information, has exploded right alongside the internet as hackers and phishers have sought to steal and gain access to private or sensitive information, including things like credit card numbers, PIN numbers, social security information, and much more. Sometimes hackers use this information for themselves to try and gain access to bank accounts or open fraudulent credit cards. Other times they then sell this information to people who do these things.

Stealing this information is generally considered a felony of the fourth degree in New Jersey. However, while this is one of the lower tiers of offenses, it could subject you to up to 18 months in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. And that’s just for a first offense—subsequent offenses could be charged as a felony of the third degree, which could mean you spend anywhere from three to five years in prison plus a fine of up to $15,000.


Fraud can occur in all sorts of ways, including some that are unique to the online world. However, things like bank fraud, credit card fraud, and identity fraud are by far the most common. One of the most common examples of online fraud includes someone using stolen information (usually obtained through identity theft, as discussed above) to apply for lines of credit or loans. The perpetrator then takes this credit or loan money and runs off with it, never to be seen or heard from again while the person whose identity was stolen is held accountable for the loan taken out in their name.

However, there are other types of fraud as well. For example, someone creating an email scam that poses as a major website in order to try and get people to enter their sensitive information would be found guilty of fraud and attempted identity theft.

Fraud crimes are extremely varied and depend largely on the circumstances of each individual case. While minor fraud may still be considered a misdemeanor, the majority of fraud attempts are usually felonies, and fraud that occurs over state lines is usually charged as a federal crime.

Buying/Selling of Controlled Substances

Meeting with a shady drug dealer in a back alley away from the prying eyes of law enforcement is largely a thing of the past when it comes to drug deals—you can buy just about anything online, including illegal or controlled substances. In fact, buying illegal substances was one of the primary motivations behind the development of cryptocurrency—a paperless, untraceable form of money that’s not connected to any particular government.

Selling controlled substances could be either a misdemeanor or a felony in New Jersey, depending on the type of substance sold and the amount, however the majority of offenses are considered felonies. The most serious offenses, including those for schedule I or II narcotics, are considered first-degree crimes, which carry anywhere from 10 to 20 years in prison as well as substantial fines.

Finally, sending illegal drugs through the mail is also against the law. The USPS could potentially seize your package if they think it’s carrying illegal drugs, as can UPS, FedEx, DHL, or other package carriers. Illegal use of the USPS is a felony, which starts with a minimum of five years in prison.


The internet has also made prostitution easier than ever before, allowing both prostitutes and “johns” (those seeking prostitutes) to connect anonymously and arrange their meetings and agreement terms, all from their own private locations. It should come as little surprise that police will frequently set up sting operations on many well-known websites to try and apprehend those taking part in this crime.

Prostitution is a “disorderly persons” offense in New Jersey, which means it’s punishable by up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1,000 for a first offense, and both the john and the prostitute can be found guilty of this offense. Second and subsequent offenses are considered fourth degree crimes, punishable by up to 18 months in jail and a fine up to $10,000.

If you’re accused of one of these or any other type of criminal offense, contact a Bergen County criminal defense attorney from the Law Offices of Joseph R. Donahue, LLC today by dialing (201) 574-7919!
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