States Take Action Against Pretexting

Published May 1, 2008

Illinois was among the first states in the nation to make it illegal to pretend to be an account holder in order to gain phone records and other personal information.

The Illinois law, passed in 2006, made it illegal to use someone’s identifying information or personal documents and pretend to be the victim to gain access to personal information. It also made it illegal to use personal identifying information to gain access to a person’s transactions, actions, or communications, such as cell phone call records.

The law defines personal information to include user names, passwords, and any other information used to access information about an individual or his or her actions, transactions, or communications. The first violation is a felony, punishable by up to five years in jail. Pretexting to gain information about three or more people within a year can bring a sentence of up to seven years.

In California, an anti-pretexting law became effective on January 1, 2007. It prohibits telephone companies from making personal telephone calling records available to anyone other than the original caller.

The law requires written consent of the original caller to release records to any other individual or agency. Fraudulent attempts to obtain such records are punishable by fines of up to $2,500 or up to one year in jail. A person who violates the law and has a previous conviction faces a fine of up to $10,000 or up to one year in jail.

Steven Titch