More and more people are paying bills and doing banking online these days because it's very convenient, but it can also be dangerous if you're not careful because your personal and financial information is out there in a scammers playground.

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A bill approved by the full New Jersey Assembly and scheduled to be considered by a Senate committee today aims to weed out the fraudsters.

"I've gotten and I know a lot of other people have gotten an email saying, 'Hi, it's your friend. I'm in trouble. Please send me money,'" explained Assemblyman Craig Coughlin (D-Middlesex). "Most people know it's a scam, but other people don't and there are people who get taken advantage of and suffer financial consequences."

The bill Coughlin co-sponsors amends the state's criminal code to clarify that a person is guilty of the offense of criminal impersonation if the person pretends to be someone else, a bank and/or a charitable group by any means including, but not limited to, electronic communications or an Internet website.

"We're targeting bad guys," said Coughlin. "We're targeting folks who take advantage of being able to hide behind the anonymity of being online. We need to prevent the bad guys from taking advantage of the anonymity that electronic devices and the Internet afford them."

As computers and electronic communication devices have become more commonplace, banks, financial institutions, and other businesses have encouraged their customers to create their own electronic identities in order to engage in transactions electronically via the internet.

The use of electronic identities to transact business provides greater convenience to customers and is more cost effective for businesses, according to Coughlin.

However, he said these identities include personal identification information such as access codes and passwords that may be misused by others who obtain such information and use it for fraudulent purposes. This type of electronic fraud can cause severe financial and emotional damages to people whose identities are stolen and illegally used by others.