For a lot of us it is easy to think that our online existence is not subject to the criminal law and that our existence online is relatively anonymous. Well, think again. While the law can be notorious for not keeping up with the modern world, there are offences that cover various online activities such as causing damage or 'impairment' to data, computer disks or credit cards. In our experience, being charged with these types of offences is relatively rare, however it can happen and when it does it is taken seriously. Some of these offences carry penalties such as imprisonment.
So you might be asking, what can I do to avoid accidentally committing a crime while I am online? The answer is simple – be careful in how you use your online presence and always behave in the same way that you would if you were in the 'real' world. For example, don't change a password on someone else's account. Don't use a credit card online without permission from the owner and especially don't access computer systems with the idea of doing something that would, in the real world, be a criminal offence. For example, don't hack into someone's bank account and steal all their money. Simple.
You might also be thinking, but how could anyone ever know if it was me doing these things? It's easy to think that hiding behind a computer screen means you are anonymous however police have broad powers to survey your online presence and, if justified, they can issue search warrants that could mean they seize your computer and sift through it. It is easy to get caught. There are police units dedicated to this area – especially when it comes to tracking child abuse material and websites that sell weapons.
Another aspect of living in this new online world is the rise of crimes related to cryptocurrency. For example, there has been a reported rise in the use of converting proceeds of crime into cryptocurrency, whereas previously this might have been money sent off into offshore bank accounts. While the way of dealing with proceeds of crime might have changed, it still remains illegal to do this. Regulators, such as ASIC, keep an eye on the movement of money including cryptocurrency.
There are other ways cryptocurrency is used illegally. There has reportedly been a rise in 'crypto criminals' who have stolen cryptocurrency either by directly stealing it or through scams. In 2021, it was reported that US$3.2 billion worth of cryptocurrency was stolen from crypto criminals.1 In Australia it was reported that $26 million was lost due to scams involving cryptocurrency.2
In summary, there are many ways in which crimes can be carried out online. It is always important to be careful with what you do and what you view online and always make sure you have permission to do whatever it is that you are doing. The consequences are not worth it.
If you do find yourself in trouble and charged with a crypto or related offence, we are here to help. Get in touch with us and we can talk you through the process.