How Identity Theft Works---Prosecuting Identity Theft
Congress declared identity theft a federal crime in 1998 when it passed theIdentity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. This offense, in most circumstances, carries a maximum term of 15 years imprisonment, a fine, and criminal forfeiture of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the offense.
Identity fraud schemes may also involve violations of other statutes, such as identification fraud, credit card fraud, computer fraud, mail fraud, wire fraud, or financial institution fraud. Each of these federal offenses are felonies that carry substantial penalties - in some cases, up to 30 years imprisonment, fines and criminal forfeiture.
According to the Secret Service, its investigations show a jump in potential losses due to identity theft, from $851 million in 1998 to $1.4 billion in 2000. While some of this increase may be due to an increase in investigations of the crime, the most likely reason is the advancement of the Internet and technology in general.
Part of the problem is the fact that the United States has no formal, centralized identification system. The most widely used ID card is the drivers' license, which has often been issued without good verification of the person's identity. The social security number that is used for verifying identity and setting up so many different types of accounts, loans and other financial necessities can be found, bought or stolen more easily than ever. It's found on many insurance cards, employment records, student ID cards, pay stubs and, of course, financial account records. The bottom line is: Protect your social security number at all costs. Don't give it out unless you have to, and don't carry the card with you.
Most states have recently improved the identification requirements for people seeking drivers' licenses. Rather that being able to bring someone in to vouch for your identity, more concrete pieces of identification are required, and then there are still some states that only issue a temporary license until your documents have gone through their fraud unit.
Future efforts for preventing identity theft will most likely come through technological advancements that incorporate some physical aspect of a person's body in order to verify identity. Known asbiometrics, this type of authentication uses individually unique physical attributes such asfingerprints, iris/retina,facial structure, speech, facial thermograms, hand geometry and written signature. It can be used to authenticate both your identity and the party you are dealing with. For more information on biometrics, check outHow Biometrics Works.