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New Federal Law Targets ID Theft, Cybercrime

President Bush last week signed into law a bill that seeks to make it easier for prosecutors to go after cybercrooks, while ensuring that identity theft victims are compensated for their time and trouble when convicted identity thieves are forced to cough up ill-gotten gains.

The Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2008 lowers the bar prosecutors need to clear before bringing hacking and other cybercrime charges against an individual. Under current federal cybercrime laws, prosecutors must show that the illegal activity caused at least $5,000 in damages before they can bring charges for unauthorized access to a computer. The new law eliminates that requirement.

The law makes it a felony, during any one-year period, to damage 10 or more protected computers used by or for the federal government or a financial institution, and directs the U.S. Sentencing Commission to review its guidelines and consider increasing the penalties for those convicted of identity theft, computer fraud, illegal wiretapping or breaking into computer systems.

The new law allows federal courts to prosecute when the cybercriminal and the victim live in the same state. Under current law, federal courts only have jurisdiction if the thief uses interstate communication to access the victim's PC. In addition, the law also expands the definition of cyber-extortion.

Identity theft victims could find it easier to win compensation for their trouble as a result of this law, assuming their attackers are brought to justice. The law requires that in cases where convicted identity thieves are ordered to pay restitution, the victim should get a chunk of that money "equal to the value of the time reasonably spent by the victim in an attempt to remediate the intended or actual harm incurred by the victim from the offense."

Some ID theft victims can spend thousands of dollars and months or years dealing with credit bureaus and debtors from accounts fraudulently opened in their names, but the law doesn't appear to take into account lost opportunities associated with identity theft. According to the Federal Trade Commission, some consumers victimized by identity theft may lose out on job opportunities or be denied loans for education, housing or cars because of negative information on their credit reports. In rare cases, they may even be arrested for crimes they did not commit.

By Brian Krebs  |  October 1, 2008; 4:33 PM ET
Categories:  Cyber Justice , Fraud , U.S. Government  
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Next: October is Cyber Security (Un)Awareness Month


Well this new law can't come soon enough. Just yesterday I became a victim -- noticed a small, unknown charge on my online bank account. I emailed the bank immediately, and by morning I was already called by the fraud line of my bank. They were blocking my card, issuing a new one, and not paying the unknown fraudster. I have been extremely careful in any of my online transactions, so have NO idea how they got a hold of my card and its numbers.

Posted by: rj | October 1, 2008 7:10 PM | Report abuse

Twice now I have had collection agencies send me notice that they are trying to collect an outstanding bill with a company or bank, even though I had no dealing with those businesses and had never received any bills, Seems the collection agencies actually look for addresses and identities connected to Social Security Numbers while the buseiness don't bother. Unfortunately they both had taken the businesses ID number and converted that into a number that looked like my SSN. It's a real pain in the butt trying to get it straightned out.

Posted by: fedUp | October 2, 2008 12:00 AM | Report abuse

The reality is that an individual cannot protect him/herself from ID theft as he/she has no control over his/her personal identifying information - ["PII"]. The ID thieves hit businesses, schools and institutions that for their own reasons accumulate PIIs. When that data is lost the individual is left to out to be victimized. Most states have enacted notification statutes; so you'll be notified that your PII has been compromised. But when you become a victim, you're on your own. Only ID Experts offers a complete product that will restore a victim to his/her pre-theft state.

Posted by: Missionary Position | October 2, 2008 4:10 AM | Report abuse

Here's another kicker, even if you place a freeze your credit reporting, changes can still take effect! I plced a permanent freeze almost a year ago due to loss of documents containing my SSN, DOB, etc. and recently received a letter from experian noting changes in my account in the last 30 days! Now I have to request a written credit report to be sent to me through snailmail (USPS) in 7-10 days, not through the web, then review it, then in written dispute any changes that are not accurate! This could take weeks to months if someone has changed my mailing address or other information. What a system we have.

Posted by: Anonymous | October 2, 2008 9:03 AM | Report abuse

This new law is nothing compared to what they do in China. In 2000, Chinese authorities executed a man for hacking into the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China . His partner was also sentenced to death, but was granted a reprieve and sent to a labor camp instead.

Posted by: Ken L | October 2, 2008 1:02 PM | Report abuse

Those darn Chinese! Such efficiency. Democracy is anything but. Sounds like this legislation is a good beginning. Wish they'd get off their duffs on other matters.

Posted by: Pete from Arlington | October 2, 2008 2:15 PM | Report abuse

Actually collecting restitution from your identity theft would be very satisfying. It may be difficult to realize this benefit but I'm glad the law is in place for victims lucky enough to see their thieves punished in the courts.

The war against identity theft is fought through many small victories.

Knowledge, awareness, and detection are our best defenses.

Posted by: The real Danny Lents | October 2, 2008 4:12 PM | Report abuse

There is a great company that deals with identity theft. Go to the website and check it out.

They work to protect and resolve any issues.

Posted by: Adam G | October 3, 2008 11:48 AM | Report abuse

Identity theft comes from so many places and in different forms. I have a credit card replaced with a new one due to the TJX Corp break in. So far I have not been notified about any Country Wide sold information on a loan I have with them.

I really do not worry about Identity theft any more since I have purchased an Identity Theft monitoring and restoration service, Identity Theft Shield from Pre Paid Legal Services, Inc. For all that these combined services do, I have not found any thing that compares. You can check them out at Also do some research into other companies so you can compare yourself.

Posted by: Earl | October 3, 2008 12:44 PM | Report abuse

You can pay a company to monitor your account all you want; it doesn't work. You need to worry (not mania however) and take control over your own monitoring activities.

Posted by: PII | October 6, 2008 3:29 PM | Report abuse

What if an identity thief or miscreant poses as you to the credit reporting organizations and/or monitoring service before you attempt to do so? That could be quite a precarious situation to be in.

Posted by: Zig | October 7, 2008 9:33 AM | Report abuse

Do your homework BEFORE signing up for an ID Protect Service and watch out for that`fine print' especially when it claims to pay the insurance (warranty) amount directly to you, but it is underwritten by AIG who just went belly up on Wall Street.

Here is a site that offers some objective comparisons

I would consider a proactive package like IDFreeze, the services includes scanning the black market internet, fraud flag placements, shutting down the junk mail down, etc. And ya know when I read these stories its not so much me and my husband I am concerned about its my Mom and her medical coverage and my teenage son with his wallet left out on a desk in his dorm room.

Posted by: Billy Jean Mc | October 7, 2008 5:46 PM | Report abuse

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