What are some examples of computer crimes?
The term computer crimes can be used to describe a variety of crimes that involve computer use. Computer crimes do not include every type of misuse of technology. The list of possible crimes below is not all of the ways that a computer could be misused but will give you an idea of some of the more common forms of misuse. See our full Technology Abuse section to read about additional ways an abuser can misuse technology and other legal options.
Hacking is when someone intentionally gains access to your computer without your permission or accesses more data or information than what you allowed. An abuser could gain access to your computer if s/he knows your password, if s/he has the skills to break into your system, or by using software designed to gain entry into your technology. An abuser could also hack into your account without your knowledge, including through the use of spyware. Therefore, it is important to keep safe passwords and to only use technology devices that you believe to be safe and free of spyware or malware.
Spyware is software that allows someone to secretly monitor/observe your computer activity. The software can be inappropriately installed on computers and on other devices, such as tablets and smartphones. Spyware can be installed without your knowledge by either gaining physical access to your device or sending attachments that will download the software onto your device when you click on a link or download the attachment. Spyware is typically a “ghost file,” which means it runs hidden on your computer and can be difficult to notice or remove. Once spyware is installed, an abuser can see and record what you type, the websites that you visit, your passwords, and other private information. Many states have laws that specifically prohibit installing spyware on a computer without the owner’s knowledge. If your state doesn’t have a law that addresses spyware, you may check the other computer-related crimes to find out if the abuser’s actions are a crime.
Phishing is a way that an abuser may use a text message or an email that looks real or legitimate to trick or scam you into providing your personal information. The abuser could then go on to use your personal information to steal your identity, monitor you, or blackmail you.
Computer fraud is when someone uses computers, the Internet, Internet devices, and Internet services to defraud people, companies, or government agencies. (To “defraud” someone means to get something of value through cheating or deceit, such as money or Internet access.) An abuser could use a computer or the Internet to pose as someone else and defraud you or to pose as you and defraud a third party (to cause you to face criminal consequences, for example).
Identity theft is the crime of obtaining the personal or financial information of another person with the purpose of misusing that person’s identity. An abuser could use your identity to destroy your credit score, attempt to make you lose your job, obtain public benefits in your name, or subject you to criminal consequences for his/her actions. Many times, abusers use information that they already have available such as a Social Security number, name and date of birth, and residential history in order to steal an identity. However, even if an abuser only has some of the above information, s/he could still commit identify theft by gaining information by using another computer crime such as hacking, spyware, or phishing.