Where can you turn if you become a victim of an internet crime? If a company rips you off, do you have recourse? If you're a victim of cyber bullying, can you get help?

Right now there are two court cases whose results will be very interesting. Both are being heard in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia.

One accuses defendant Brian McDaid with the widespread sending of spam e-mails using proxy servers and anonymizers (a tool which makes Internet activity untraceable). He allegedly used software programs that sent hundreds of thousands of e-mails in a short period of time.

He had software which prevented recipients from blocking the spam.

In another case, an individual was harassed and bullied via e-mails. The recipient received self-deleting e-mails, followed by harassing telephone that couldn't be traced to a specific telephone number.

The harassment went further. The individual doing the harassment managed to steal passwords from the victim and used them to cancel a doctor's appointment, change passwords on the victim's e-mail, took control of the victim's bank accounts, and deleted the victim's application to take the Medical College Admission Test.

Both cases indicate how powerful the Web has become.

Both were solved with the help of federal investigators. Obviously, local law enforcers would not have the resources, or even the knowledge, to investigate, track down, and prosecute such offenders.

Both cases also dictate the need for more identity control of the Internet.

In the above two cases, the alleged culprits were fortunately for the victims American citizens with the source of the offenses being within the United States.

Often we hear of identity thefts, con games, and other internet crime originating from sites from Nigeria, Russia, etc., whereby even federal prosecutors are helpless to perform justice or obtain restitution.

Not only are sales pitches used to con internet users out of their cash, but often programs tap into unprotected computers and steal identities or various private information.

The internet is fabulous when used properly. It's also becoming more and more the source of virtually untraceable crime.

Congress has to initiate laws protecting computer users. Such laws must especially include rules for identifying those who solicit or send materials via the internet.

Self-deleting e mails, anonymizers, and "bullet proof servers," which are servers typically located physically outside of the jurisdiction of the United States, must be banned or licensed to be used only for specific purposes.

Too much cyber crime is occurring to be ignored. Entire life savings are being deleted at the pushing of a computer key, with senior citizens being the most likely victims.

Other crimes affecting internet users include phishing, which specifically seeks to steal identities; spyware, online predators, and computer intrusion.

The FBI has an entire division devoted to computer crime but it isn't enough.

Only with specific government regulations to identify Web site addresses, the requirement to register domains, and the imposing of severe prison sentences and fines for offenders, can at least some safety be potentially instituted on the Net.

By Ron Gower

rgower@tnonline.com