High-tech criminals who prey on their victims over the Internet are the focus of new initiatives by the City Bar Justice Center, the pro bono arm of the New York City Bar Association, as well as Legal Services for New York City, the New York State Attorney General’s Office and the Federal Trade Commission.
Participants see the initiatives as the first coordinated effort by the state’s private bar, government bureaus, poverty law agencies and law enforcement groups to deal with such crime.
At the heart of the effort is a $171,000 grant, provided by the FTC and the attorney general from court settlements of litigation, for a new section on Internet fraud at LawHelp.org/ny, a Web site maintained at the Justice Center and geared toward low-income New Yorkers seeking legal advice and referrals.
The new section gives access to some 400 resources offering help in matters of identity theft, e-mail scams, computer viruses, online harassment and online crimes against children.
In addition, the grant will fund a statewide public education campaign aimed at those most vulnerable to Internet crime, said the Justice Center’s Leah Marguiles, director for LawHelp.
Nearly 14 percent of U.S. adults, or some 30 million Americans, fell victim to online crime in 2005, according to the most recent FTC Consumer Fraud Survey. Among that group, low-income citizens are “especially vulnerable,” said Ms. Marguiles.
Desperation is at the root of the problem, she added, evident by increasing incidents of identity theft carried out against poor people responding to online employment ads that are in reality “phishing” expeditions – e-mail scams and phony Web sites operated by cyber-criminals in search of Social Security numbers and other personal identifiers.
Attorneys in search of pro bono opportunities in the cyber-crime area may wish to enroll in a three-credit CLE program, “Internet Fraud: Crimes and Prevention,” on Wednesday, Nov. 28, at 2 p.m. at Legal Services, 350 Broadway. Trainers include Denzil S. Fearon, senior computer crimes investigator for the New York State Police; Karen A. Geduldig, assistant attorney general with the Internet bureau of the New York Attorney General’s Office; Leonard L. Gordon, assistant northeastern regional director of the FTC; and Emma Greenwood, Ms. Marguiles’ deputy at the Justice Center.
“Until this project,” said Ms. Greenwood in speaking about the new Internet fraud component of LawHelp, “there was a lack of collaboration. Not because parties didn’t want to work together, but because it’s hard to arrange. Now we’ve arranged that. I think we’ll really make a difference.”
Besides the new Internet Fraud section, LawHelp provides legal resources in 13 other areas, including consumer rights, housing, public benefits, family and juvenile law, immigration and education matters and workers’ rights.
LawHelp is a collective project of Legal Services and the Justice Center, as well as the Legal Aid Society of New York City, Volunteers of Legal Service, Pro Bono Net, the New York State Bar Association, the Empire Justice Center, the Legal Aid Society of Northeastern New York, Legal Services of the Hudson Valley and Legal Assistance of Western New York.
- Thomas Adcock can be reached at email@example.com.