What is Identity Crime?
Currently there is no standard definition of identity theft in the world. In the United States, identity theft became a federal crime on October 30, 1998 through the enactment of the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, 18 USC §1028 (a) (7). This Act states that identity theft occurs when a person
“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.”To commit identity theft the most important pieces of information that identity thieves need to unlawfully obtain are: the victim’s name, date of birth, Social Security Number, address, and mother’s maiden name. It should be noted however that the loss or theft of personal information by itself, does not immediately lead to identity theft. There are instances when thieves who steal personal items inadvertently steal personal information that is stored in or with the stolen personal items, yet never make use of the personal information (The President’s Task Force on Identity Theft, 2007, sec 1: 2-3). Therefore, for a crime to be considered identity theft, the criminal must unlawfully obtain the victim’s personal identifying information and use that information to commit other unlawful activities. In many instances this leads to identity fraud.
Identity fraud, which includes identity theft, was also defined by the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, title 18 USC §1028 (a) (1-8). Identity fraud basically occurs when individuals knowingly and without lawful authority produces an identification document, authentication feature, or a false identification document with the intent to defraud others, including the United States.
The identification document is reproduced using, without authority, personal identifying information from another person. The defrauded victims in this case is the person whose personal identifiers were used and the organization(s) that has to either compensate the identity theft victim or take the loss for assets purchased by the identity criminal.
The identification document can also be made up of random names and numbers to create a new identity. This is called synthetic identity theft. The victim in this case is the organization(s) that looses profits from assets purchased by the identity criminal.
Identity Crimes Examples
The following are some examples of instances when a person becomes a victim of identity crimes:
- The identity thief uses, without the victim’s knowledge and authorization, the victim’s identification to open new credit accounts, open new bank accounts, obtain employment, purchase automobiles or houses, and other assets.
- Other types of crimes that the identity thieves commit include withdraw funds from the victim’s bank account(s); use the victim’s credit card(s) to make purchases; use the victim’s health and/or dental insurance for their own use.
- In some instances, identity thieves have been known to use the victim’s identity to commit felony crimes. The victim often becomes aware of this when law enforcement officials’ arrests him or her. Identity thieves have also been known to file false tax returns or claim the victim’s tax refunds.
- In many instances, individuals become aware of being victims of identity theft when debt collecting agencies start calling or when the victim cannot obtain a loan or apply for credit due to their credit being ruined.
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