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Cyber Scams and Frauds
Section 25 of the IPC defines ‘fraudulently’ as an action or deed done with an intention of deceit. The two main ingredients to be satisfied are deceit or an intention to deceit and either actual injury or possible injury to intent to expose some person to actual or possible injury.
Internet fraud is a form of white-collar crime whose growth is as rapid and diverse as the growth of the Internet itself. In fact, the diversity of areas in which the Internet is being used to defraud people and organization is astonishing. While there are innumberable scams and frauds going on, on the Internet, many of them relate to investments. They may be classified broadly, yet not comprehensively, into the following categories:
Online Investment Newsletters - Hundreds of online investment newsletters have appeared on the Internet in recent years. Many offer investors seemingly unbiased information free of charge about featured companies or recommending stock picks of the month. While legitimate online newsletters can help investors gather valuable information, some online newsletters are tools for fraud.
Bulletin Board- Online bulletin boards whether news groups, usenet, or webased-have become an increasingly popular forum for investiors to share information. Bulletin boards typically feature ‘threads’ made up of numerous messages on various investment opportunities.
E-mail Online Spans- Because ‘spam’ junk e-mail is so cheap and easy to create, fraudsters increasingly use it to find investors for bogus investment schemes or to spread false information about a company. Spam allows the unscrupulous to target many potential investors. Using a bulk e-mail programme, spammers can send personalized messages to thousands and even millions of Internet users at a time.
These offences can be related, most conveniently, to the offences of fraud and cheating.
Viruses are self-replicating programs, which on entering a system attach themselves to the digital data of the host computer, thereby destroying and/or rendering it beyond comprehension and making it useless.
Computer viruses transfer from computer to computer by disguising itself as a harmless e-mail or any other such thing thereby infecting and destroying the data of the recipient computer as well. The menace of computer virus has reached the stage of being an incurable disease. On an average a million computer viruses are generated every year. Multinational companies and some of the top government organizations together, all over the world, spend billions of dollars every year on the research and development of anti-virus programs. Further millions of dollars are spent every year, recovering and reconstituting the data lost of viruses.
It has been mentioned that website could be considered to be the ‘property’. Further it cannot be denied that viruses, however, harmless, cause damage to property to some extent. Thus the requirement of damage property is met in the form of alteration or destruction of digital information through viruses.
As far as intention to cause damage is concerned, the only defence that the offender who has authored the viruses or other such program can claim is that his intention was not to cause damage to the specific computers or computer systems affected. However, the offence of mischief by definition does not require specific intent and therefore the offender cannot escape law for the damage caused. It could, for this reason, be asserted that an author of a computer virus may be held liable for the offence of mischief under Section 425 of the IPC.
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