New CA Law to Ban Online Impersonation

By Jason Beahm on September 10, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Maintaining your reputation in the digital age is no easy task. One wrong move can stick with you for the rest of your life. You can take proactive steps, like being careful about what you post and setting up Google Alerts to monitor your name. But what if someone hacks into one of your accounts and assumes your identity?

California is considering a bill, authored by State Senator Joe Simitian, that would outlaw online impersonation. The bill seeks to update the current identity laws on the books, which go back to 1872. "Our identity is one of the most personal things we have, and when someone misuses that it seems there ought to be some sort of deterrence," Simitian said to BBC News in an interview. Simitian pointed out that when the current laws were created, no one had anticipated the Internet, e-mail, Facebook, Twitter or other outlets for trashing someone else's reputation.

Under the bill, it would be a crime to "harm, intimidate, threaten or defraud" using the internet or other electronic devices or means. Those convicted of online impersonation would face fines of $1,000 and up to a year in jail. Those who have their accounts hacked would also have a specific right to file a civil claim. The bill is waiting the signature of California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Identity theft is a growing problem as more and more information goes online. While the financial aspect of identity theft is often discussed, it is more rare to hear about identity theft used to harm a person's reputation. In order to avoid falling victim to online impersonation, make sure you take basic security steps including: creating a strong password, avoiding phishing scams and securing your wifi network.

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