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How serious of a criminal offense is phishing?

On Behalf of | Nov 24, 2023 | Criminal Defense |

While hacking attempts against an organization’s computer networks are still a thing, it’s much cheaper and easier to trick people into divulging sensitive information. This is why hackers and other devious individuals still rely on social engineering attacks such as phishing, which involves sending fraudulent emails or messages.

In a phishing attack, the attacker pretends to be someone the potential victim trusts, such as a coworker, customer, or even their boss. Phishing messages often make requests for sensitive data while creating a sense of urgency (i.e., “Please update your computer password before this date,” or “Important: Your invoice is attached”). Phishing is so effective, that it’s the second most common cause of a data breach in 2022, costing victims an average of $4.91 million.

It’s a crime to launch a phishing attack in Kentucky. Violators will face severe penalties for trying to trick others through electronic means.

Phishing is a felony

Per state rules, a person is guilty of phishing if they knowingly solicit, request, or take any action to convince another person to reveal identifying information (such as bank account numbers, PIN codes, account passwords, Social Security numbers, driver’s license details, and so on) by pretending to be another individual or organization.

The offense isn’t limited to attempts made using emails or text messages; Kentucky also prohibits phishing through fake websites designed to trick people into entering their usernames and passwords.

Phishing is a Class D felony.

Penalties for phishing

If a court convicts a person of phishing, they face up to five years of imprisonment and $10,000 in fines.

In addition to phishing, a person may face a wire fraud conviction if a court finds they tricked another person into transferring cash. The punishments for this offense include up to 20 years of prison and $1,000,000 in fines.

Phishing is a serious offense. Because it’s often the first stage of a sophisticated cyberattack or fraud scheme, offenders may face additional penalties on conviction. If officials accuse you of launching a phishing attempt, you might want to speak with a legal professional to understand your rights in court as you defend yourself.