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Reformed UK fraud law to tackle phishing attacks

10 years for phishermen

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The UK government is reforming fraud laws to create an offence covering the perpetrators of phishing attacks. The provision is among a raft of measures designed to clarify existing laws within the new Fraud Bill, which was introduced in the House of Lords on Wednesday.

A new offence of fraud, designed to strengthen the existing law and ease the prosecution process, is the main feature of the bill. The offence can be committed in one of three ways: false representation (as seen in phishing attacks); abuse of position (e.g. a person lifting money from the account of an elderly person under their care) and failing to disclose information (e.g. a lawyer who schemes to keep information from his client so he can make money on the side).

Judges will be able to impose sentences of up to 10 years for any of these three offences. This means fraudsters who pose as financial institutions in the commission of phishing attacks, a form of false representation, could become the subject of extradition proceedings.

The Bill will also introduce the new offences for obtaining services dishonestly (a crime that covers making fraudulent credit card transactions on the net, for example) and of participating in fraudulent business. It will also become an offence to possess, manufacture or supply equipment, such as a computer programme that can generate genuine credit card numbers, which facilitates fraud.

The Bill is designed to clarify the current law. Home Office Minister Fiona MacTaggart said: "The introduction of a general fraud offence will improve the criminal law in a number of respects. It will simplify the law, making it clearer to juries and the general public as well as making the prosecution process more effective by providing a clear definition of fraud. Our aim is to encompass all forms of fraudulent conduct, with a law that is flexible enough to deal with developing technology, allowing us to bring more offenders to justice." ®

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