Punishment for Stealing Personal Information through Public WiFi
One way that hackers can steal personal data is through public WiFi networks. These networks—often found at cafes, fast food restaurants, and hotels—are used by a wide range of people. When you use a public network, all of your data is essentially sent through radio waves that can be intercepted.1
There are various ways to intercept data from public WiFi networks. Software can be sent through WiFi, allowing you to see everything on other people’s computer screens if they are using the public connection. “Fake” public WiFi hotspots can also be set up to gain access to computers that connect to the network.2
If you use free public WiFi to steal personal data, you could face severe penalties. That is why it is crucial for you to have an experienced team of attorneys to help defend you against these charges.
How Will You Be Charged for Stealing Personal Information through WiFi
Depending on the circumstances of your case, you could be charged with various different crimes for accessing personal information through free public WiFi.
It could be considered a form of internet fraud under California Penal Code Section 502. This relatively new crime, also known as cybercrime, involves the “unauthorized access to computers, computer systems and computer data.”
Under PC 502, you violate this law by committing any of the following acts:
- You knowingly and without permission accessed, altered, damaged, deleted, destroyed or otherwise used any data or computer network in order to deceive, extort or wrongfully obtain money, property or data;
- You knowingly accessed and without permission took copies, data or supporting documentation from a computer system or network;
- You knowingly and without permission used or caused to be used computer services;
- You knowingly and without permission introduced a computer contaminant into any computer system or network; or
- You knowingly and without permission used the Internet domain name of another individual, corporation or entity in connection with sending damaging messages to another computer system or network.
Depending on how you used the information, you could be charged with identity theft. Under California Penal Code Section 530.5, you commit identity theft when you:
- Willfully obtain someone’s personal identifying information and use this information for an unlawful purpose without that person’s consent;
- Acquire someone’s personal information without his or her permission with the intent to commit fraud; or
- Sell or transfer someone’s personal identifying information without his or her consent.3
If you used WiFi networks to obtain credit card information with the intent to commit fraud, you could be charged with credit card fraud. Under California Penal Code Section 484e, you commit credit card fraud when you:
- Sell credit card information without the cardholder’s consent;
- Acquire credit card information of four or more people within a 12-month period;
- Obtain credit card information of somebody without his or her consent and with the intent to commit fraud; or
- Use someone’s credit card information to buy anything of value.4
Penalties for Stealing Personal Data through Free Public WiFi
Depending on the charges against you, you could face a misdemeanor or felony for stealing personal information through free public WiFi networks.
Under PC 502, internet fraud is a wobbler offense, meaning it could be charged as a misdemeanor or felony. A misdemeanor internet fraud charge is punishable by up to one year in county jail and up to $5,000 in fines. For a felony conviction, the penalties could be as high as three years in state prison and $10,000 in fines.5
If you are charged with misdemeanor identity theft in California, you could face up to one year in jail and fines of up to $5,000 fine. A felony fraud conviction carries up to three years in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000. You could also be charged with a federal crime under 18 U.S.C. Section 1028, which carries a punishment of 15 years in prison.
If you are convicted of misdemeanor credit card fraud under PC 484e, you could face up to six months in county jail and up to $1,000 in fines. A felony conviction of credit card fraud is punishable by up to three years in state prison and fines of up to $10,000.6
Let the Criminal Defense Attorneys at Wallin & Klarich Help You Today
Like technology itself, laws involving technology are changing rapidly. These laws can be very complex. That is why you need to speak with an attorney immediately if you are accused of stealing personal information through public WiFi networks.
At Wallin & Klarich, our experienced attorneys have been helping our clients facing serious criminal charges for over 40 years. We can help you with your case.
With offices located in Orange County, San Bernardino, Los Angeles, Torrance, Riverside, West Covina, Victorville, Ventura, San Diego and Sherman Oaks, our skilled attorneys are available to provide you with the legal guidance you need no matter where you live or work.
Call us today at (877) 4-NO-JAIL or (877) 466-5245 for a free phone consultation. We will get through this together.