Identity theft is not new, but has become much more common in recent years. Identity theft headed the top 10 consumer fraud complaints of 2001, according to the Federal Trade Commission. Identity theft accounted for 42 percent of the 204,000 complaints entered into the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database last year.

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your name and usually your social security number to obtain credit, loans, employment, health care services, rentals, and mortgages. Sometimes the imposter will file bankruptcy in your name. But your identity could also be used by someone who has committed crimes, so you could have a felony criminal record without even knowing it. Worse yet, there have been many victims who were wrongfully arrested!

The primary issue for the identity theft victim is to halt the crime spree, but that’s the tip of the iceberg. A victim’s major concern is to get his/her life back. Victims have lost their cars, their employment, their homes, and their reputation. Some have filed bankruptcy just to survive. Besides the potential monetary losses, the time and labor involved in correcting records after an identity theft is discovered can be enormous.

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, which became effective October 30, 1998, makes identity theft a Federal crime with penalties up to 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. It establishes that the person whose identity was stolen is a true victim. Read the Law

Here are some tips to make it harder for another person to steal your identity.

Your Social Security Number (SSN) is often the key to identity theft. Never carry your Social Security number in your wallet or checkbook. And never have it printed on your checks. If your existing checks have your SSN printed on them, then void the lot and get a new set.

Guard your SSN closely. Unless you are convinced it is absolutely necessary, do not give your SSN to anyone. In most cases, it is not necessary. Always ask if a business will accept another means of identification other than your SSN and don’t be afraid to question a governmental agency’s request it.

When you complete your monthly bills, don’t simply toss the detail pages in the garbage. Use a shredder or tear papers to obscure information.

Posting personal information is risky. Don’t feel compelled to reveal details. It usually isn’t necessary.

As you do with your physical health, check you financial health every year by reviewing your credit report. Correct any errors in writing.

You can quickly determine if someone else is using your bank account or credit cards by simply reviewing monthly statements.

Immediately report suspicious activity to the police, your bank and other financial institutions, such as credit agencies.

Read the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Alert on identity theft.

Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998

Title 18 United States Code – Section 1028 Fraud and Related Activity in Connection with Identification Documents and Information.

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 which became effective October 30, 1998, makes identity theft a Federal crime with penalties up to 15 years imprisonment and a maximum fine of $250,000. It establishes that the person whose identity was stolen is a true victim. Previously, only the credit grantors who suffered monetary losses were considered victims. This legislation enables the Secret Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other law enforcement agencies to combat this crime. It allows for the identity theft victim to seek restitution if there is a conviction. It also establishes the Federal Trade Commission as a central agency to act as a clearinghouse for complaints, (against credit reporting agencies and credit grantors) referrals, and resources for assistance for victims of identity theft. This statute may serve as a model for your state to enact similar legislation. It should also provide you leverage to influence law enforcement to investigate your case.

Title 18 USC 1028:

(a) Whoever, in a circumstance described in subsection (c) of this section —

knowingly and without lawful authority produces an identification document or a false identification document;

knowingly transfers an identification document or a false identification document knowing that such document was stolen or produced without lawful authority;

knowingly possesses with intent to use unlawfully or transfer unlawfully five or more identification documents (other than those issued lawfully for the use of the possessor) or false identification documents;

knowingly possesses an identification document (other than one issued lawfully for the use of the possessor) or a false identification document, with the intent such document be used to defraud the United States;

knowingly produces, transfers, or possesses a document-making implement with the intent such document-making implement will be used in the production of a false identification document or another document-making implement which will be so used;

knowingly possess an identification document that is or appears to be an identification document of the United States which is stolen or produced without lawful authority knowing that such document was stolen or produced without such authority shall be punished as provided in subsection (b) of this section; or

knowingly transfers or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law;
(b) The punishment for an offense under subsection (a) of this section is —

except as provided in paragraph (3) and (4), a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than 15 years, or both, if the offense is —
(A) the production or transfer of an identification document or false identification document that is or appears to be —

(i) an identification document issued by or under the authority of the United States; or

(ii) a birth certificate, or a driver’s license or personal identification card;

(B) the production or transfer of more than five identification documents or false identification documents;

(C) an offense under paragraph (5) of such subsection; or

(D) an offense under paragraph (7) of such subsection that involves the transfer or use of 1 or more means of identification if, as a result of the offense, any individual committing the offense obtains anything of value aggregating $1,000 or more during any 1-year period;

except as provided in paragraphs (3) and (4), a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than three years, or both, if the offense is —
(A) any other production, transfer, or use of means of identification, an identification document, or a false identification document; or

(B) an offense under paragraph (3) or (7) of such subsection;

a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than 20 years, or both, if the offense is committed —
(A) to facilitate a drug trafficking crime (as defined in section 929(a)(2)) or this title;

(B) in connection with a crime of violence (as defined in section 924(c)(3)); or

(C) after a prior conviction under this section becomes final;

a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than 25 years, or both, if the offense is committed to facilitate an act of international terrorism (as defined in section 2331(1) of this title);

in the case of any offense under subsection (a), forfeiture to the United States of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the offense; and

a fine under this title or imprisonment for not more than one year, or both, in any other case.
(c) The circumstance referred to in subsection (a) of this section is that —

the identification document or false identification document is or appears to be issued by or under the authority of the United States or the document-making implement is designed or suited for making such an identification document or false identification document;

the offense is an offense under subsection (a)(4) of this section; or

either —
A. the production, transfer, possession, or use prohibited by this section is in or affects interstate or foreign commerce; or

B. the means of identification, identification documents, false identification document, or document-making implement is transported in the mail in the course of the production, transfer, possession, or use prohibited by this section.

(d) In this section —

the term “document-making implement” means any implement, impression, electronic device, or computer hardware or software, that is specifically configured or primarily used for making an identification document, a false identification document, or another document-making implement;

the term “identification document” means a document made or issued by or under the authority of the United States Government, a State, political subdivision of a State, a foreign government, political subdivision of a foreign government, an international governmental or an international quasi-governmental organization which, when completed with information concerning a particular individual, is a type intended to commonly accepted for the purpose of identification of individuals;

the term “means of identification” means any name or number that may be used, alone or in conjunction with any other information, to identify a specific individual, including any —
A. name, social security number, date of birth, official State or government issued driver’s license or identification number, alien registration number, government passport number, employer or taxpayer identification number;

B. unique biometric data, such as fingerprint, voice print, retina or iris image, or other unique physical representation;

C. unique electronic identification number, address, or routing code; or

D. telecommunications identifying information or access device (as defined in section 1029(e));

the term “personal identification card” means an identification document issued by a State local government solely for the purpose of identification;

the term “produce” includes alter, authenticate, or assemble; and

the term “State” includes any State of the United States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and any other commonwealth, possession or territory of the United States.
(e) This section does not prohibit any lawfully authorized investigative, protective, or intelligence activity of a law enforcement agency of the United States, a State, or a political subdivision of a State, or of an intelligence agency of the United States, or any activity authorized under chapter 224 of this title.

(f) Attempt and Conspiracy – Any person who attempts or conspires to commit any offense of this section shall be subject to the same penalties as those prescribed for the offense, the commission of which was the object of the attempt or conspiracy.

(g) Forfeiture Procedures – The forfeiture of property under this section, including any seizure and disposition of the property and any related judicial or administrative proceeding, shall be governed by the provisions of section 413 (other than subsection (d) of that section) of the Comprehensive Drug Abuse Prevention and Control Act of 1970 (21 U.S.C. 853).

(h) Rule of Construction – For purpose of subsection (a)(7), a single identification document or false identification document that contains 1 or more means of identification shall be construed to be 1 means of identification.

Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 (This was included in the Bill signed by the President.)

CENTRALIZED COMPLAINT AND CONSUMER EDUCATION SERVICE FOR VICTIMS OF IDENTITY THEFT.

(a) IN GENERAL – Not later than 1 year after the date of enactment of this Act, (October 30, 1998) the Federal Trade Commission shall establish procedures to –

log and acknowledge the receipt of complaints by individuals who certify that they have a reasonable belief that 1 or more of their means of identification (as defined in section 1028 of title 18, United States Code, as amended by this Act) have been assumed, stolen, or otherwise unlawfully acquired in violation of section 1028 of title 18, United States Code, as amended by this Act:

provide informational materials to individuals described in paragraph (1); and

refer complaints described in paragraph (1) to appropriate entities, which may include referral to –
A. the 3 major national consumer reporting agencies; and

B. appropriate law enforcement agencies for potential law enforcement action.

(b) AUTHORIZATION OF APPROPRIATIONS – There are authorized to be appropriated such sums as may be necessary to carry out this section.

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