Leahy “phishing” bill would criminalize Internet identity theft

Print More

(Host) Senator Patrick Leahy has introduced legislation that’s designed to fight identify theft on the Internet. If the proposal is not adopted, Leahy is concerned that the public’s trust with the Internet will be undermined.

VPR’s Bob Kinzel reports

(Kinzel) In the past few months, the number of cases of identify theft using the Internet have skyrocketed as scam artists have developed more sophisticated techniques to fool consumers. It’s an activity that’s known as “phishing.”

Here’s what happens: you get an e-mail from what appears to be a reputable financial source or business that directs you to a special Web site. The consumer is then asked to confirm personal financial information like their credit card number. The criminals then use this information, often within hours, to transfer money from the victim’s bank accounts or to purchase products without the victim’s knowledge.

Leahy’s bill criminalizes two activities: the act of sending out a false e-mail with the intention of committing a crime and the operation of the sham Web site itself:

(Leahy) “It’s estimated that it costs consumers and businesses billions of dollars a year. But it’s not just the billions of dollars a year now, which are very significant, but it’s the great potential it has to totally cripple the ability to conduct commerce by the Internet.”

(Kinzel) Leahy is also concerned about the types of organizations that are now getting involved in these phishing activities:

(Leahy) “We know that organized crime has gotten involved in it but I’ also worried about how long does it take for terrorist organizations looking at ways to fund themselves to do it.”

(Kinzel) Leahy says his legislation is needed because traditional wire fraud and identity theft laws are not sufficient to respond to this new type of criminal activity.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Bob Kinzel in Montpelier.

Comments are closed.