Phishing is an attempt to fraudulently obtain someone’s confidential information by impersonating or claiming partnership with a well-known business or organization. The goal of most phishing scams is to obtain financial information, such as bank account information or credit card numbers. However, you could be charged with an Internet crime any time you attempt to obtain confidential information under false pretenses, even if you do not use it for financial gain.

Phishing scams can be as simple as sending a request for information using a fake signature or logo. More sophisticated scams redirect users away from a legitimate business’s website to an identical-looking website using links or emails that appear legit.

How could I be suspected of phishing?

At first glance, you may think that you could only be guilty of phishing if you are trying to steal identities or bank account details, but the definition covers a wide range of seemingly harmless activities. Attempting to gain access to someone else’s email or social media accounts using a fake email address or text from an unfamiliar phone number, for example, could raise some red flags and result in an investigation for phishing. You could also be charged with phishing if you use someone else’s account to solicit personal or financial information from a third party.

What happens if I am investigated for phishing?

Being convicted of conducting a phishing scam can carry serious repercussions. Under federal law, phishing scams can be punishable by up to 35 years in prison, as well as up to $250,000 in fines.

However, being investigated does not mean you are guilty. If you suspect you are being investigated in relation to an alleged phishing scam, you should contact a skilled criminal defense attorney. He or she can take steps to protect your privacy, your rights and most importantly, your freedom.