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Identity theft and fraud are not new emerging crimes, but it wasn't until The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act was enacted by Congress in October 1998 that identity theft became a federal crime.
Criminal identity theft occurs when someone “knowingly transfers, possesses or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, or in connection with, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable state or local law."
The definition of “means of identification” includes someone's name, Social Security number, bank accounts and credit card numbers, mobile phone serial number, and any other piece of personal information that can be used alone or with other information to identity an individual.
Identity theft cases are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies, and prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.
Identity theft and fraud cases can be difficult to prosecute, primarily because the key to prosecuting and convicting criminals is solid evidence. With the burden of proof on the prosecutor, the process can be costly and challenging.
Victims must do their part by filing complaints and police reports to document the crime. If you prefer, you can submit your information anonymously. However, evidence for identity theft cases is usually built bit by bit, establishing a pattern and profile of the criminal. The ability for law enforcement officials to contact you during the investigation could be critical to seeking and winning a conviction.
If you are a victim of identity theft, file a police report in the city where the theft occurred, and submit a complaint to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). You can file your complaint online or call 1-877-438-4338.
|Jennifer Mathes, Ph.D.|