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N.C. Legislator Takes a Stand Against Cyberstalking

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CARY — Stalkers have turned to new technology to find and follow victims. A bill introduced Wednesday in theNorth Carolina General Assemblywill target cyberstalkers, and people who try to steal user identities.

There are already federal laws on the books, butWake CountyRep. Bob Hensleywants to put more teeth into them.

Use of the Internet, cell phones, fax machines and other electronics make cyberstalking easier and a bigger threat. One of Hensley's bills is aimed at what happened a few days ago in Cary.

Aracist letter circulated at a Cary apartment complexwas written on a computer and included the e-mail address of an innocent person.

A woman has been charged in the incident. While that incident was not cyberstalking, the bill is aimed at such activity.

Hensley says the bill addresses "computers, fax machines and electronic methods to harass, annoy or destroy other people's computers."

People participating in Internet chat sessions may unwittingly give away their identity, and become cyberstalking victims. Hensley says his bill protects constitutional rights and addresses electronically transmitted threats.

"It's okay to tell somebody that they're crazy, but it's not okay to say you're crazy and I'm going to kill you," Hensley said.

The State Bureau of Investigation helps local police investigate cybercrime.

"We are getting numerous requests for assistance to identify the perpetrators for stalking, harassing, threatening, that kind of thing," says Melinda Collins with the SBI.

A second bill introduced by Hensley would make it a felony to use stolen personal identification numbers to get financial resources. Theft of that kind of information can happen anywhere using the Internet.

"We'll allow our prosecutors to do warrants on these people, have them extradited and prosecuted in this state," Hensley said.

Some of the crimes are already covered by various state and federal laws. However, Hensley wants North Carolina to join about ten other states that are getting specific and hard-nosed about cyberstalking and theft of identity.