Punishment For Identity Theft
The laws pertaining to the punishment for identity theft crimes are getting tougher. The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act signed on July 15, 2004 makes identity theft an aggravated crime and provides for specific sentencing guidelines. Before we jump to the specifics of this law and its provisions of punishment for identity theft, I would like to draw your attention to another law that was signed in December 2003, which was The Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act or FACTA. This law was established to create a national system and help detect identity fraud and prevent identity theft from further escalation. The law aims at protecting consumers against identity fraud charges. The FACTA law helps consumers take certain actions as soon as they become a victim of identity theft or even when they suspect they might have become a victim of identity theft. Thanks to the FACTA identity theft law, victims can now make one phone call to alert all three major credit rating agencies to report the crime and to protect their credit ratings and credit report information upon any signs of stolen identity and identity fraud.
Now back to the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act to address punishment for identity theft. This law prescribes various prison terms and mandatory penalties for the persons who use identity theft to commit various crimes like mail fraud and terrorism. This federal law specifically establishes in the Federal criminal court the offense of aggravated identity theft, which is the use of stolen identity to commit crimes. And someone convicted of that crime can expect to go to jail for stealing a person’s identity components. This punishment for identity theft is in addition to any punishment for crimes that proceed from identity theft. For example, when someone is convicted of mail fraud using stolen personal information, two sentences can be imposed, one for mail fraud, and one for aggravated identity theft. Those convicted of aggravated identity theft must serve an additional mandatory two-year prison term. Terrorism related convictions using identity theft would receive an additional prison sentence of five years. In addition, those convicted of aggravated identity theft may not serve their sentence on probation. Aggravated identity theft and punishment for identity theft used to even support terrorism can lead to penalties and prison terms. In other words, direct terrorism involvement is not necessary and a mere support of it using identity theft is sufficient to go to jail. One example is to supply fake passports and IDs using other people’s identity.
The details of Federal punishment for identity theft and the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act as posted on the government site is as follows:
· Increase penalties by two years for anyone who commits A “aggravated identity theft” in order to commit another serious Federal offense (including immigration violations, false citizenship crimes, firearms offenses, Social Security fraud, government theft, and other serious crimes);
· Increase penalties by five years for anyone who commits identity theft for the purpose of committing a terrorist act;
· Expand the maximum penalty for identity theft under Federal law from three to five years;
· Clarify that the twenty-five year maximum sentence for identity theft in facilitating terrorism applies to both international and domestic terrorism; and
· Add the word “possess” to the Federal identity theft statute so that law enforcement can target individuals who possess identity documents with the intent to commit another crime.
· Direct the Sentencing Commission to amend its guidelines in order to punish insider offenses that involve an “abuse of trust” of the person’s position.
· Authorize $2 million each year for fiscal years 2005 to 2009 to the Department of Justice for the investigation and prosecution of identity theft and related credit card and other fraud cases.
Consumers should learn about and understand their legal rights in every area of prevention, detection and resolution in order to protect themselves against identity theft and identity fraud. In addition to the Federal prison punishment for identity theft, State courts may impose financial punishment for identity theft and penalties as well. Consumers should also be proactive in understanding things they can do and steps they can take to prevent, detect and resolve identity theft related matters. Web sites like this one are good sources of information because we attempt to draw upon our information protection knowledge and experience to analyze the various identity theft risk areas and help consumers and the industry manage the growing problem of identity theft while exemplifying our own personal identity theft experiences and those of our readers.
Unfortunately, the laws don’t force the companies to explain the risks of identity theft to consumers when preaching the sale of their products and services, therefore, consumers must take the necessary steps to prevent identity theft and one of those steps is to increase identity theft awareness and education, which this site can help with. Consumers and the industry as a whole can take advantage of the existing laws such as FACTA and Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act to control and deter identity theft.