A credit rating can be repaired, but the stigma of a false child pornography charge can never be expunged:
An international investigation of internet-based child pornography has led to accusations against innocent victims of credit card fraud, a CBC News investigation has found.
In other cases, victims of identity theft found themselves fighting to save their reputations, jobs and marriages after their names were used to buy child pornography.
Still others were implicated when they made legal purchases of adult pornography from sites that were associated with child-porn sites.
In the United Kingdom, almost 40 of those accused have committed suicide in the past six years, as well as six in Australia and at least one in Canada.
The worldwide investigation began after a Texas-based website called Landslide Productions was caught selling access to child pornography.
When police closed down the company in 1999, they discovered a database containing more than 100,000 names — including 2,329 from Canada — and credit card details from around the world.
The resulting Canadian investigation, Project Snowball, saw police forces across the country run background checks on names from the database, then set up fake child-porn websites to lure the suspects into attempting to buy illegal images and videos.
"We don't charge innocent people with possessing child pornography," said Det. Insp. Angie How of the Ontario Provincial Police's child pornography section. "The evidence has to be there for us to go forward with the charge."
But internationally, some police agencies ended up raiding homes and offices simply because their owners' names appeared on the database.
We must always resist the temptation to believe that a charge is proof of guilt, no matter how much our hearts desire human justice, however fallible, to be done.
It could have just as easily you or I facing the nightmare of being publicly branded the worst form of sexual deviant, because our credit card numbers ended up in the wrong hands.
One could imagine how technically proficient but malicious persons could do this as a form of revenge against their enemies, real or perceived, with little or no chance of being caught.
It almost makes you want to swear off doing business on-line.