Quite simply, the definition of identity theft is the acquisition of personal information of another individual without their express permission. Though the terms are basically interchangeable, the actual use of this information for criminal and malicious means is referred to as identity fraud.
The History of Identity Theft
It is commonly assumed that the Internet initiated the onset of identity theft and fraud, but this is not true. Though it was not been defined as the term we know today, the crime has been around for as long as social identifiers such as id documents, social security numbers and passports have. In the past, it was usually necessary to kill your victim to steal their identity. Our modern day lifestyles of credit cards and online banking has indeed made it easier to commit the crime, but also probably safer for the victim.
Early Laws in the UK
The definition of identity theft was possibly first recorded in the main deception offenses of the English Law’s Theft Act of 1968. It described in detail and prohibited deception of any form, including that of one’s identity. This act was then revised in the Theft Act of 1978 and has finally been repealed by the Fraud Act of 2006 where the definition of identity theft is laid out as we know it today.
Early Detection and Identification in the USA
The USA took a stand on the increase of identity theft crimes and drafted the Identity Theft and Deterrence Act in October of 1998 (Reference – Public Law 105-318, 112 Stat. 3007). This was in response to a statement, which David Medine of the Federal Trade Commission, presented to the United States Senate in May of that year. It discussed the extent and increase of crimes which included the theft of identification and resulted in credit card, mortgage and other forms of fraud. As a result, the newly amended act allowed for the definition of identity theft to include using any form of identity in an unauthorized manner as a crime.
Worldwide Laws and Penalties
Identity theft is now a common term in law books and statutes around the world. Each country and, where applicable, each state has varying ways of punishing the crime. Most punishments, however, depend on the degree of fraud committed as a result of the identity theft. No matter how you define it, using someone else’s identity in any fashion whatsoever is a serious crime and is punishable by law.