Identity crime and identity theft are the common terminologies used in reference to crimes where someone accesses and uses personal data for some form of deception, fraud, economic benefit or other malicious act. Social security numbers, credit card number and bank accounts are the primary targets for identity theft.
What do identity thieves do with stolen identities?
When an unauthorized person has information about a victim’s identity, he transfers money from the victim’s bank or takes over identities and commits crimes using the victim’s names and contacts. Some of the problems that are encountered by victims are loss of money, damage to reputation, and the lengthy recovery processes of personal and financial information.
Some of the modi operandi that thieves use are to work for medical offices, government agencies or businesses and steal information while on the job, or to use a legitimate business’s name to trick people to provide their personal and financial information or to even pretend to offer a loan, apartment or job to further entice people to be careless with their personal information.
Enforcement by law
In order to deal with identity theft problems, various local and state law enforcement agencies have passed Acts that have set guidelines for the prevention and investigation of possible cases of identity theft. For instance, the Identity Theft Assumption and Deterrence Act of 1998 has declared theft of identity a crime against any person whose personal information or identity is stolen.
The Act has broadened the scope of offenses so that stealing of documents and misuse of information is included and the person who commits a crime as defined under the Act can get up to 25 years in prison, depending on the severity of the offense. The law is being implemented in every state so that person who commits such crimes is given severe punishment, which acts as a deterrent to avoid the commission of such crimes in their state.
Important facts and figures about identity thefts
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) report Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book for January-December 2011, there were about 1.8 million identity theft complaints from consumers for the year. In the report more than 15% was for identity threat, 27% was government document or benefits fraud, 14% credit card fraud, 13% utilities or phone fraud, 9% bank fraud, 8% employment fraud and 3% loan fraud.
Out of all identity theft complaints, 45% contacted law enforcement agencies; 70% reported to local police departments. Hence, with the passage of time, number of identity thefts should be declining and it is expected to reduce further by developing more technologically advanced security systems and awareness campaigns that will ensure personal information of people remains protected and secured.