Articles Posted in Cyber/Internet Crimes

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Governor Deval Patrick signed into Massachusetts law a Cyber / Internet Crime bill that outlaws the transmission of sexually graphic instant message to minors. The new law was written to close a loophole that led to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court reversing the conviction of a man who was criminally charged with sending explicit instant messages to a 13 year old girl.

In that case, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruled that instant messages could not be included in any of the state’s then-existing categories of Massachusetts’ obscenity laws because they did not constitute a visual representation of sexually explicit material, and were handwritten or printed material.

The Cyber / Internet Crime now includes and bans instant and text messages, e-mail and similar forms of electronic communications to minors containing sexually explicit material, which carries potential penalties of up to 5 years in state prison, and fines of up to $10,000.

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The Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court recently decided the case of Commonwealth v. Kereakoglow, and reversed the defendant’s conviction after jury trial on the criminal charges of Possession with Intent to Disseminate Material Harmful to Minors, in violation of Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272, Section 28.

The defendant, residing in South Hadley (Hampshire County), allegedly sent three nude images of himself via e-mail to a police officer posing online as a fifteen year old girl living in Wenham (Essex County). The criminal offense of Possession with Intent to Disseminate Material Harmful to Minors requires the prosecutor to prove to the jury that the material was “harmful to minors.” Massachusetts General Laws Chapter 272, Section 31 defines material that is harmful to minors as material that is “obscene” or if taken as a whole:

  1. rerpesents sexual images so as to appeal to the prurient interest of minors;
  2. is patently contrary to the prevailing standards of adults in the county where the offense was committed; and
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In a recent study by the data security firm Symantec Corporation, Boston ranked as the No. 2 worst city for Cyber/Internet Crimes city in America, narrowly missing the top spot, which was taken by Seattle.

According to the Cyber-Crime Report, the high concentration of “spam zombies” (computers taken over by outside hackers to send out spam) and Boston’s numerous unsecured WiFi hotspots makes Boston particularly vulnerable to Cyber Crime attacks. Although large-scale cyber crime attacks are far between, the smaller-scale attacks on computer users and businesses using unsecured WiFi networks is on the high end.

Cyber/Internet Crimes can lead to a wide variety of criminal charges aside from ‘spamming.’ Other common Cyber/Internet Crimes include Identity Theft, Fraud, Larceny, Embezzlement, and even Sex Crimes.

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In an elaborate cyber crime, a website advertising a fake bridal show to be held in Boston at the Hynes Convention Center this coming weekend scammed thousands of brides and vendors of several thousand dollars. The website, The Boston 411, targeted people and vendors through popular bridal event websites and common social media sites such as Facebook.

The internet bridal scam was not discovered until recently when vendors started calling the Convention Center in Boston asking when they could start setting up their booths. It wasn’t until that time that the police were contacted and Hynes Convention Center officials confirming that no bridal event had even been scheduled.

The Associated Press reports that approximately 6,000 people and vendors signed up for the non-existent show. Potential attendees prepaid a registration fee of up to $15, and vendors losing several thousand dollars, some up to $4,000, for reserving floor space and producing advertising materials for the event. The internet scammers reportedly secured payments for their fraudulent crime-scheme by demanding online payments through PayPal or similar online money transfer services.

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Boston Mayor Thomas Menino recently announced initiatives, including a hotline, to combat ‘cyber-bullying’ instances among students in Boston area schools. The hotline, staffed by the City’s Law Department, Boston Public Schools and the Boston Police Department, allows callers to voice concerns, report bullying occurrences, request assistance, and screen for emergency situations that might require an immediate response.

The Anti-Cyber Bullying initiative comes in response to the recent arrest of three Newburyport High School students that were criminally charged with identity theft. The three students allegedly made a fake Facebook page of a student, along with his picture, and posted negative comments about other students from that fake account. The other student only learned of the identity theft when other classmates began making fun of him at school.

Identity theft has become a major issue in today’s world, and internet crimes in general are increasing exponentially.  Cyber Crimes are not limited to just those traditional internet crimes such as credit card fraud, identity theft and piracy, but also encompass crimes such as larceny and prostitution.  Computer or cyber-technology has also been the medium which has predicated many typical crimes, including sexual assaults, rapes and even murder.  As crimes involving computers are become more and more sophisticated, law enforcement is dedicating increasing resources to combat internet crimes.