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Are there specific laws targeting identity theft?

It is stunning to think of the amount of personally identifiable information that exists for each individual. Traditional information like names, dates of birth, addresses and telephone numbers still exist, of course, but they are joined by Social Security and Medicare numbers, a host of financial account numbers and newer information like biometric data , such as fingerprints or iris scans that belong to an individual.

Given the breadth of information available, it may be of little surprise that law enforcement has ramped up its focus on crimes involving identity theft. Indeed, from 2008 through 2013, there were reportedly more than 1,600 convictions for identity-theft related crimes.

There may be multiple laws that come into play for identity theft charges. For instance, Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998 to target identity theft. Under the law, the transfer or use of another individual's identification for criminal purposes is defined as a federal crime.

Other federal or state laws could also be at issue when identity theft is alleged. Laws targeting fraud, for example, might be charged, which can bring about possible prison terms in the event of a conviction, as well as fines and restitution requirements.

No matter what specific law is involved, however, the charges should be taken very seriously. Any federal charges, or state charges for that matter, can result in drastic penalties if the charges result in a conviction. Accordingly, the person who is charged should address the charges immediately, and get help in determining what defenses may apply that can prevent a conviction on the charges.

Source: FBI.gov, "Identity theft," accessed on Oct. 24, 2014

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