GA moves to make phishing a crime

Sentences of 1 to 20 years and fines of up to $500,000 could be levied on individuals and companies who run phishing scams from Georgia.

The Georgia Senate is considering a bill that would make "phishing" illegal, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. But since phishing is nothing but fraud over email, it's surely already illegal. No matter. Perhaps the practice can be stemmed by making online fraud more heavily punished.

Under Senate Bill 24, any person in Georgia who intentionally violates the law would be guilty of a felony and could serve between one and 20 years in prison and pay a fine between $1,000 and $500,000. The bill's penalties only would apply to people who are in Georgia when they commit Internet scams; it would not affect, for example, a con artist in California who fraudulently obtained personal information from an Atlanta resident.

Under the bill, any company or individual - or the attorney general - could bring a lawsuit against a phisher. But the bill exempts from liability companies whose workers engage in phishing and individuals whose computers are used for scams without their knowledge - something that happens a lot as bot networks are often used to spread the scams. ISPs, too, are protected from liability if their networks are used by scammers.

"I think it's very important that we keep our laws up to date when it comes to the criminal use of technology," said Sen. Cecil Staton (R-Macon), the proposal's sponsor.

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