European committee green-lights tougher sentences for digital payments fraud

European committee green-lights tougher sentences for digital payments fraud

Criminals cashing in on digital payment trends and the rise of cryptocurrencies can expect stiffer jail sentences under new rules approved by a powerful European Parliament committee.

The Civil Liberties Committee passed plans to combat fraud and counterfeiting of non-cash means of payment such as cards, electronic wallets, mobile payments and virtual currencies in an effort to remove gaps in national legislation and introduce more effective deterrents.

The new rules would:

  • establish five, four or three years of prison, depending on the offence, as the minimum penalty in cases where a judge imposes the national “maximum” custodial sentence for non-cash payment fraud,
  • include virtual-currency transactions in the scope of offences,
  • improve EU-wide cooperation to ensure cross-border frauds are better dealt with,
  • strengthen assistance to non-cash fraud victims, such as psychological support, advice on financial, practical and legal matters and free legal aid at least for those who lack sufficient resources for it, and
  • improve prevention and awareness-raising, e.g. through campaigning, education and permanent on-line information tools with practical examples of fraud cases.
The draft report was approved by 31 votes to 1, with no abstentions.

Rapporteur Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, says: “Digitalisation has transformed the way we pay. As non-cash payments are used more and more, criminals exploit loopholes in the current rules. In today's vote we managed to harmonise the definitions of online crime offences throughout the EU, introduce a minimum level for penalties for them and improve the protection of victims of non-cash fraud.”

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