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Identity Theft Laws

Identity Theft is a crime.  There are a number of laws that have been passed at the state and federal level which are designed to reduce ID Theft or to provide assistance to victims. 


 Is ID Theft a federal crime?


Yes. The ID Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, enacted by Congress in October 1998 (and codified, in part, at 18 U.S.C. 1028(a)(7)) is the federal law directed at ID Theft.

The Act makes it a federal crime when someone "knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law."

Note that under the Act, a name or SSN is considered a "means of identification."  So is a credit card number, cellular telephone electronic serial number or any other piece of information that may be used alone or in conjunction with other information to identify a specific individual.

In most instances, a conviction for identity theft carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment, a fine and forfeiture of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the crime.  Schemes to commit ID Theft or fraud also may involve violations of other statutes, such as credit card fraud; computer fraud; mail fraud; wire fraud; financial institution fraud; or Social Security fraud.  Each of these federal offenses is a felony and carries substantial penalties - in some cases, as high as 30 years in prison, fines and criminal forfeiture.

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 What federal agencies investigate ID Theft?


Violations of The ID Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General.  Federal ID Theft cases are prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.

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 Is ID Theft a crime in my state?


Most states have passed laws related to ID Theft.  Where specific ID Theft laws do not exist, the practices may be prohibited under other laws.  Contact your State Attorney General's office or local consumer protection agency to find out whether your state has laws related to ID Theft.

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 Are there other laws that help prevent ID Theft or that assist victims?


There are a number of laws that have been passed at the state and federal level which are designed to reduce ID Theft or to provide assistance to victims.  Contact your State Attorney General's office or local consumer protection agency.  For additional information about federal laws, search http://thomas.loc.gov/, the government's Web site for legislative information.

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