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Va. Expands Extortion Law To Include Identity Threats

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By Rebecca Blatt

A bill to update extortion laws in Virginia is on its way to Governor Bob McDonnell's desk. Its sponsor, Delegate David Bulova of Fairfax, says it will help address a growing threat that he has experienced first hand.

Last summer, Bulova received an email from a man claiming to know his social security number. The sender demanded $30,000 to keep it private. Bulova says he assumed it was spam.

"We got a call that evening form a person who said, 'I'm that guy who went ahead and sent you that email this morning, I really do want your $30,000 or I really will go ahead and sell your personal information,'" says Bulova.

Bulova called the attorney general's office, and he learned that extortion in Virginia includes threats to someone's property or character. The attorney general said personal information didn't fall neatly into either category.

"The old fashioned concept of what you could go ahead and threaten in order to extort money out of a person are simply outdated," he says.

The bill passed by the General Assembly extends Virginia's extortion law to include "sensitive identifying information."

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