Before the millennia, identity theft was not a crime given much consideration in the courts. Today, new laws have been added to both the state and federal levels that make these crimes much more serious. Although catching and prosecuting offenders is still a challenge, the penalties for identity theft ensure that when caught, culprits will pay for what they have done.
Changes in 2004
Back in 2004, the Federal government began taking action to try to put a halt to these cases. They decided something had to be done because, not only were people being victimized at higher rates and in new ways, such as phishing schemes, but the financial services industry was also being hit with huge losses as a result of the fraud being committed by the thieves. To move towards greater penalties for identity theft, then President Bush signed a new law called the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act.
Impact of the Law
Some of the changes in the law went into effect immediately and increased the penalties for identity theft. For example, the crime began punishable by five years in federal prison – an increase of two years over the earlier penalty. Additionally, the new law addressed the new technology being used to dupe people out of their identities. Phishing schemes used to steal identities would automatically result in an additional two years being added to the sentence.
Creation of a New Crime
If identity theft wasn’t enough, the bill created a new felony known as Aggravated Identity Theft which would have even stiffer penalties for identity theft. The new law permitted the courts to stack crimes together. Basically, when a crime was committed in conjunction with stealing an identity, two years were automatically added to the federal sentence.
One of the most interesting additions to the new law was the addition of a terrorism element. If any part of the identity theft could be construed as being part of a terrorist plan or of being used to help fund terrorist activities, the culprits would receive even longer sentences. This part of the penalty alone could equal 5 to 25 years in federal prison. Interestingly, foreign thieves are not the only ones likely to be found guilty of this portion of the new law. The law also pertains to those involved with domestic terrorist groups as well.