I wrote an article recently about  the MPAA (Movie Producing Association of America) running a costly campaign to deep six a law that would make pretexting illegal. Pretexting in a nutshell, is pretending to be someone that you are not, usually to obtain information that would not normally be freely available, such things as Social Security Numbers, or Credit Reports. Pretexting is basically identity theft.

The MPAA uses pretexting as a tool to identify people and organizations that are responsible for pirating movies. According to our lawmakers, this is just fine. Hence the burying of the pretexting bill.

Of course it is still illegal to pretext, while the MPAA may have buried a bill, a number of other statutes are still in force, as Bryan Wagner discovered. Bryan Wagner was a Private Investigator involved in the recent HP (Hewlett Packard) scandal. HP management was concerned that certain sensitive material had been leaked to the media. In an attempt to stem the leaks they contracted Bryan Wagner to assist.  Mr. Wagner used pretexting to obtain personal information about members of HP’s board of directors.

The HP leak problem became a flood gate. The CEO resigned, and a major reorganization of upper management occurred. Being such a high profile subject, the fed’s have got involved.

So far the only ‘sacrificial lamb’ is Bryan Wagner. While I find it hard to have much sympathy for the Dog Chapman’s of the world,  pretexting is a way of life, without pretexting they likely would have to get a real job! Deliberately deceiving people is bad. I do think that it is unfortunate though that they have to suffer jail time while groups like the MPAA can do this with impunity.

In court Mr Wagner admitted:

that he was paid as part of a conspiracy that made fraudulent use of Social Security numbers and other confidential information to obtain the personal phone records of reporters and HP officials, as well as the personal records of these individuals’ family members

Wagner admitted that on March 8, 2006, he established an online telephone service account in the name of a Wall Street Journal reporter and fraudulently used the reporter’s Social Security number to access the reporter’s personal telephone records

So the question remains. How come sleaze balls like Mr. Wagner get their just desserts, yet the MPAA is free to do the same thing without any problems?

Simon Barrett


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