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Stealing Email and Voicemail May Be A Crime



Question: It was not until my wife and I got into litigation that I discovered she had found my voice mail passcode in my wallet and has been systematically entering my voice mail box and recording private messages that had been sent to me. Some of these are very damaging. Her lawyer is getting ready to use these recordings in court. Although my lawyer says there is nothing we can do because this is not wiretapping by telephone, it just seems to be wrong. Have you heard about this happening before?

Answer: Yes -- and we believe your lawyer should do some more research. Voice mail is an example of stored wire communications, and electronic mail is stored electronic communications. It is a violation of the federal law for a person to access and obtain either without authorization. If your wife's actions fall within the prohibitions of the law, the penalties can include both fines and imprisonment. Regardless, your situation points up why people who use voice mail should change their passwords often and not write down them down.

Jan Collins is an award-winning writer and editor. Jan Warner is a matrimonial, elder, and tax attorney. Both are based in Columbia, South Carolina. Flying Solo is distributed to newspapers throughout the United States by Knight-Ridder Tribune News Service and can be found on the Internet at

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