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'Is that a bad cough or are you taking my savings?'

It used to mean that you had a bad cough or that you drove a taxi at night or perhaps that you penned pulp fiction. Now "hacking" refers to surreptitious and often illegal activities on a computer.

Hackers looking for identifying information on individuals or from institutional data will break into individuals' computers, as well as into the data systems of banks, schools, retail chains, government facilities, credit agencies, insurance companies and just about any other person or place storing valuable information.

Hacking crimes are certainly not rare in Florida. According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, last year our state had both the highest number of identity theft complaints (more than 37,000) and the highest rate of ID theft (186 per 100,000 residents). Sometimes the ID theft results in use of a person's credit card information to buy merchandise and then resell it and sometimes the theft results in the filing of fraudulent income tax forms in order to nab tax refunds. At other times, the pilfered data is used to empty a person's bank account.

According to computer crime experts, the data breaches are often the result of collaboration between hackers and a person who works on the inside. That is, someone who works in a medical office, bank or school and who has access to private, detailed data on large numbers of people.

A recent article on identity theft said the motive for the crime is easy to understand: "There's a lot of money in (computer crimes) with very little physical risk," said an attorney in Privacy and Identity Protection at the FTC.

Because law enforcement agencies are devoting more time and resources to hacking activities, more people find themselves facing white-collar charges that can result in years in prison, large fines and making restitution.

Our Orlando law firm represents those charged with computer crimes of all types, including matters involving identity theft, fraud, embezzlement, data theft and others. We work with you and negotiate with prosecutors to minimize potential punishments. Please see the Computer Crimes page for the Law Offices of Horwitz & Citro, P.A. for more information about how we can serve you.