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Legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Craig J. Coughlin and Annette Quijano cracking down on criminal impersonation committed by electronic communications or the Internet was recently approved by the General Assembly.

“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 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-3536) 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. 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.

“This measure is long overdue,” said Quijano (D-Union) “With the proliferation of identity theft occurring on new media sites it is critically important that we expand the definition of criminal impersonation to include electronic communications and/or Internet websites.”

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.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee amended the bill to create a disorderly persons offense if the benefit has no monetary value.

The bill was approved 78-0-0 and has now been referred to the Senate Judiciary Committee.