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With law enforcement agencies and resources stretched to their limits trying to solve violent crimes, criminal identity theft has historically been positioned low on the priority list. Yet, the last few years have witnessed a continuing rise in identity theft – affecting nearly 10 million victims annually – and police departments are viewing criminal identity theft more seriously. Many have already established dedicated fraud units to handle and investigate reports.
Recognizing that identity theft is spiraling out of control, President George W. Bush signed into law The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act in 2004, calling for tougher identity theft penalties for convictions. Under federal law the maximum penalty for identity theft increased from three to five years in prison.
Yet, regardless of stiffer criminal penalties, key to prosecution and conviction is evidence. And, in criminal law, the burden is on the prosecutor to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Without being able to establish a pattern or history of offenses by the suspect, moving forward with prosecution can be both costly and difficult to win.
That's why it is important for victims to file complaints and police reports documenting the crimes. Your individual report may not single-handedly bring a criminal to justice, but it could be one of the many links in a chain of offenses that could eventually convict the criminal.
If you are a victim of identity theft, file a police report, and submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can file your complaint online or call 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338).
|Sheri Ann Richerson|