Assembly Approves Criminal Penalties Against Internet Impersonation

TRENTON – Bipartisan legislation to crack down on criminal impersonation by electronic communications or the internet was recently approved 69-9 by the Assembly last week.

“The bill would amend the state’s identity theft statutes to impose criminal penalties on anyone found guilty of criminal impersonation or identity theft involving the use of any electronic communications or internet websites,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano (D-Union). “These acts include but are not limited to impersonating another or assuming a false identity for the purpose of obtaining a benefit or injuring or defrauding another.”

Currently, penalties under the statute range from a crime of the fourth degree to a crime of the second degree, depending on the monetary amount of the benefit involved and the number of victims.

“Under the bill, a person commits a disorderly persons offense if he impersonates another or assumes a false identity and by means of electronic communications or an Internet website does an act in such assumed character or false identity for the purpose of injuring or defrauding another, and the offense involves the identity of one or more victims,” said Assemblywoman Celeste Riley (D-Gloucester/Salem/Cumberland). “If the offense results in bodily injury to another or significant mental suffering or distress it would be a crime of the fourth degree.”

“Frankly, technology has progressed so rapidly that our laws simply have not kept up. Unfortunately, we have seen nationwide instances of impersonation and identity theft that have impacted individuals and families both financially and emotionally,” said Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex). “This legislation simply clarifies that criminal impersonation extends to the Internet and it shall be subject to criminal penalties.”

The bill (A-2105), approved June 21, has been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

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