Opinion

What I have in common with Erin Andrews

Jill Sigal Contributor

Ms. Andrews is a sportscaster on ESPN.  While I love sports and have always wanted to be a sportscaster, I am not.  Ms. Andrews was on Dancing with the Stars.  I can barely dance.  Ms. Andrews is a blonde.  I am a brunette.  So, do we have anything in common?  Unfortunately, yes.

Ms. Andrews has been a victim of Internet stalking and thankfully the person who committed the crime was caught, prosecuted and sentenced to two years in prison.  As I wrote on July 9, 2010, I am a victim of Internet identity theft and harassment.  While I am confident that the people responsible for these crimes – those that are doing the technical Internet work as well as those funding the criminal activity – will be prosecuted and sent to prison, not everyone who is a victim of Internet crimes has the tenacity, persistence and time to help law enforcement hunt down the criminals.  Law enforcement often lacks the resources to expend on these types of crimes and current laws, which were enacted before the explosion of the Internet, are outdated and in need of reform.

According to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigations and the National White Collar Crime Center, 336,655 Internet complaints were submitted to IC3 in 2009.  This represents a 22.3% increase from complaints filed in 2008 and an increase of 667.8% from complaints filed in 2001.  Of the complaints filed in 2009, over 27,600 of them were for Internet identity theft.

The anonymity of the Internet, and the ability of the criminals to change IP addresses and mask their identity, has resulted in an amazing explosion of Internet crimes.  These crimes can be committed from anywhere – from high a top a mountain or from a little league game in Mississippi.  As the IC3 stated in its 2009 report, “Anyone who uses the Internet is susceptible” to Internet crimes.

Ms. Andrews was on Capitol Hill last week advocating the passage of H.R. 5662, the “STALKERS Act of 2010.”  I applaud the House of Representatives for passing this bill and encourage the Senate, when it considers the legislation, to ensure that the bill adequately addresses not only Internet stalking but also Internet harassment and Internet identity theft.  It is time to modernize Federal law to meet the new frontier in criminal activity – Internet crimes.  Anyone can be a victim, even you.

Jill Sigal is President of Jill Sigal Associates, a consulting firm specializing in policy development, strategic planning, government relations, communications and stakeholder and community outreach.  She recently has added Internet harassment and Internet Identity theft to the portfolio of issues for which she gives public policy and strategic advice.