Computer fraud is a relatively new type of fraud. The law tends to lag behind technological developments, so the law punishing use of computer technology to commit fraud is in a very simple stage right now. Virginia adopted what is called the Virginia Computer Crimes Act to punish various criminal abuse of computer technology. Simply, the fraud law reads: Any person who uses a computer or computer network, without authority and:
1. Obtains property or services by false pretenses;
2. Embezzles or commits larceny; or
3. Converts the property of another;
is guilty of the crime of computer fraud.
If the value of the property or services obtained is $200 or more, the crime of computer fraud shall be punishable as a Class 5 felony. Where the value of the property or services obtained is less than $200, the crime of computer fraud shall be punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. What’s important to notice here is that non-computer grand larceny of items worth over $200.00 is punishable by a Class 6 felony. Using a computer to commit grand larceny enhances punishment for that larceny.
The Virginia Computer Crimes Acts has a list of computer property that is capable of embezzlement. The following property is listed under Virginia VA Code Section 18.2-152.8:
1. Computers and computer networks;
2. Financial instruments, computer data, computer programs, computer software and all other personal property regardless of whether they are: (a) Tangible or intangible; (b) In a format readable by humans or by a computer; (c) In transit between computers or within a computer network or between any devices which comprise a computer; or (d) Located on any paper or in any device on which it is stored by a computer or by a human; and
3. Computer services.