Three Assembly Democratic lawmakers are sponsoring two measures aimed at protecting unsuspecting consumers by cracking down on a variety of scam activities.
The first bill (A-2538), sponsored by Assemblymen Herb Conaway, Jr., M.D. and Paul D. Moriarty would make it an unlawful practice for anyone to masquerade as a legitimate business entity via electronic means in an effort to obtain personal information such as usernames, passwords or credit card details.
“Communications pretending to be from places such as popular social web sites, auction sites, and online payment processors are commonly used to lure the unsuspecting public,” said Conaway (D-Burlington/Camden). “Often times a user is directed to enter details at a fake website whose look and feel are almost identical to the legitimate one. It’s very easy for someone to be fooled so we need to send a clear message that these scams won’t be tolerated.”
The bill was recently approved 74-0 by the Assembly and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.
Anyone attempting to use a web page, e-mail, or Internet means to induce another person to provide personal information by representing oneself, either directly or by implication, to be a business, without the authority or approval of that business, would be in violation of the state’s consumer fraud act. Anyone found in violation of the provisions of this bill would be liable to a penalty of up to $10,000 for the first offense and up to $20,000 for the second and each subsequent offense.
“It has become so commonplace for Internet predators to use ‘phishing’ mechanisms to try and pry personal information from unsuspecting consumers,” said Moriarty (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Some of these communications can look completely legitimate. We need to apply the weight of the law to protect the public from these unscrupulous activities.”
The second bill (A-2402), sponsored by Assemblyman Jack Conners, would regulate the operation of sweepstakes in New Jersey by establishing certain guidelines and restrictions on an industry that is currently unregulated. It was recently advanced by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.
The bill would require solicitation materials for sweepstakes to contain simple, clear, understandable, and easily readable language, including several disclosures. The required disclosures would be required to include information about the value of the prizes; the odds and conditions necessary to receive a prize, including the number of prizes available and the fact that no purchase is necessary to win; the winners; the sponsor of the sweepstakes; specially selected entries; and the official rules.
“A vast number of sweepstakes target our state’s most vulnerable residents in an effort to take advantage of them,” said Conners (D-Burlington/Camden). “This measure will help pull back the veil and expose predatory scams for what they are.”
The bill also prohibits, among other things, a sweepstakes sponsor from requiring individuals to pay money as a condition for winning a prize; giving an advantage to an entry accompanied by an order for goods or services; and charging any amount for shipping and handling.
The provisions of the bill would fall under the state’s consumer fraud act and anyone found in violation would be liable to a penalty of up to $10,000 for the first offense and up to $20,000 for the second and each subsequent offense. Additionally, a violation can result in cease and desist orders issued by the Attorney General, the assessment of punitive damages and the awarding of treble damages and costs to the injured party.