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New Bills Seeks Stiff Penalties For Phishing Scams
Bill Seeks Fines And Prison Terms

A bill has been put before the U.S. Senate which would allow prison time of up to five years and fines of up to $250,000 for people found guilty of phishing for information with the intention of using such information to steal money. Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), introduced the Anti-Phishing Act of 2005, similar to one that failed to pass in 2004.

Julie Katzman, a legal advisor to Leahy on the Senate Judiciary Committee, said, "It helps to have a crime that defines the conduct. It sends [scammers] a signal." The bill, would allow law enforcement officials another tool to fight phishing scams, by creating an opportunity to prosecute before the actual fraud takes place, says. The bill is intended to deter phishing scammers, she adds. Leahy's bill would also extend the same penalties to so-called "pharming," in which scammers redirect computer users' browsers and direct them to spoofed banking or e-commerce sites.

"Some phishers and pharmers can be prosecuted under wire fraud or identity theft statutes, but often these prosecutions take place only after someone has been defrauded," Leahy says in a statement. "For most of these criminals, that leaves plenty of time to cover their tracks. Moreover, the mere threat of these attacks undermines everyone's confidence in the Internet. When people cannot trust that Web sites are what they appear to be, they will not use the Internet for their secure transactions."

The number of new phishing messages climbed by an average of 38 percent a month during the last six months of 2004, according to the Anti-Phishing Working Group. The number of phishing e-mails grew by 42 percent, and the number of unique phishing Web sites grew by 47 percent in January, according to the group.

Leahy's bill requires that the spoofed Web sites be designed with the goal of committing fraud or identity theft. Parody Web sites, both commercial and political, are exempt from the penalties in the bill.

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SYS-CON's Security News desk trawls the world of security for news of software, hardware, products, and services that seems likely to be of interest to infosec professionals and summarizes them for easy assimilation by busy IT managers and staff.

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