Posted By Joe Addiego
The Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2007 recently was introduced to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary by Senator Patrick Leahy, the Chair of that Committee. The purpose of the bill is “to enable increased federal prosecution of identity theft crimes and to allow for restitution to victims of identity theft.”
The bill is aimed at “malicious spyware, hacking and keyloggers,” as well as “cyber-extortion,” and it offers a number of remedies that may be pursued by both the government and individuals in response to occurrences of identity theft. For example, if passed into law, any use of spyware or keylogging that causes damages to 10 or more computers would be punishable as a felony. The government also would be able to pursue more incidents of such cybercrime, as the bill would allow prosecution where the victim and alleged cyber-criminal are residents of the same state (the current version of the law would require the theft to occur over interstate or international borders). Further, victims of identity theft would have the right to seek “criminal restitution” from the perpetrator for the time and expense related to the victim’s efforts to restore their credit that was damaged as a result of identity theft. The bill has not yet been scheduled for debate or vote.
The concept behind the bill, particularly allowing victims to seek restitution, has merit, but if it ultimately is passed into law, the real questions will be how many victims will attempt to take advantage of that provision, and whether, practically speaking, they will be able to track down and actually recover monies from the identity thieves.