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Good afternoon. I'll be assisting you with your question.
I was previously an Assistant United States Attorney, and was my office's designated computer crimes prosecutor, so this is certainly within my area. It isn't often I get a chance to answer a question going back to my old area of expertise.
As a side note, 1030 is a failry complex, and, in my opinion and the opinion of many other prosecutors, a very poorly worded statute. Ultimately, it covers a great deal of conduct most likely not intended to be criminal.
Specifically, what is your question?
well, here's what happened.....
I joined a website by opening an account for free. They have a paid classified section. I bought an account for I think $100, under my real name. Then, for some reason I don't remember, in an ad I put my partner's name as the contact, not mine. They kicked me off for theft of service and wouldn't listen to any explanation. Banned me for life. So I used other people's identities to open accounts, but they were smarter than me and figured it out. Then an exhange of hot emails went back and forth and they now are threatening to bring criminal prosecution under that statute. The way I read it, I committed no fraud, got no financial gain, in fact paid THEM every time, never sold anything or got any financial benefit. Do you think a federal prosecutor would agree to prosecute me? Is there another law the could use, if not?
Understandably very worried about this.
OK. The situation you've described is what I meant when I said earlier that the statute criminalizes activity that was probably never meant to be. Technically speaking, you did exceed your authorized access by using somone else's name and information (I'm sure there's something in the user agreement about that).
However, just because it is technically criminal, that does not mean that anything will ever happen. In fact, it probably won't.
The website itself cannot bring charges. Only the US Attorney can do that.
I understand that, but they are really and way disproportionately out for blood. Do you think they can convince a USA to waste time on this?
Unless there was some sort of data breach or other issue beyond simply signing up under a name other than your own, US Attorneys Offices have been cautioned to not bring charges under that statute.
I was a court reporter for the u.s. attorney in florida and NY and have seen some strange things happen. I had no gain of any kind, zero.
did not access any data of any kind
In my opinion, there is almost no chance the US Attorney will puruse a case under the facts that you've described. Like I said, there would need to be more going on there, like a data brach, fraud, blackmail, etc.
Okay thanks. I'm going to leave a relief tip for you. I'll keep you posted.
I'm not in a position to guarantee what some US Attorney will do, but I would be absoutley shocked if they did.
Thanks. If you have any questions in the future, feel free to direct them to me. It isn't often I get the chance to assist a customer with a 1030 issue.
Thanks. That's what I figured. Actually, about a hear ago I hired a web designer to design and build a site to compete with them, but offer all the services for free. It is a very closed community and everybody would hear about it. Free would wipe them out. I abandoned it because I lost interest. Earlier today I sent an email to the designer, and I don't care if it costs me 20k, I'll put that up and see to it that every advertiser who pays them money is offered free accounts on this new site.
I will keep you posted, and hopefully there won't be too much to post. I left you an excellent and 20 bucks.
by the way, any OTHER law they are likely to get me on?
Thanks for the tip! No, I can't think of any other statutes they would pursue. If you are going to go after their business interests, there is one thing that you should be mindful of. There is a CIVIL cause of action called tortious interference with a contract. Essentailly, that makes it grounds for a lawsuit if one party (in this case, you) makes efforts intended for another to breach a business contract. Here are two websites that give a good, detailed description:
Just something to keep in mind.
Thanks, XXXXX XXXXX on that. Actually, I will never publicly badmouth them or suggest to anyone that they should leave them. I'll just let them weigh free vs. paid for the exact same service. By the way, KINGSNAKE.COM
I agree with your analysis. However, in the worst case, suppose they contact the US Attorney Monday, and suppose it's a crazy attorney who wants to pursue this. (I'm sure we've both known sadistic prosecutors who enjoy ruining lives). What is the fastest time you can realistically imagine them getting an indictment? I want to have bail and an attorney lined up before this happens. Do they need to go to a Grand Jury?
They definitely will at least try to make an example out of me, and they have an inhouse legal staff.
Once again, I know what you tell me is only an opinion, but I want to weigh my options and have nothing else to base it on.
By the way, if I get out of this I'm not going to bother them anymore. I just want peace in my life, so tortious interference is not going to happen.
Hard to imagine a Grand Jury hearing this. I reported a lot of Grand Juries in my day and never heard anything nearly as trivial. However, I have seen 100% certifiably insane sadistic prosecutors in my career, so one never do know.