Penalties for Identity Theft

In 2004 President Bush signed into law the Identity Theft Enhancement Act, which increased the penalties for Identity Theft. It established “aggravated identity theft” as a criminal offense.

This new classification of identity theft has mandatory penalties, and is defined as the use of a stolen identity to commit certain criminal acts.

Under the new law, any person convicted will receive a mandatory five (5) year prison sentence if the criminal activity involved terrorism. Additionally, the law calls for a two(2) year sentence for anyone who provides fake ID’s for a non-terrorism crime.

Additionally there are additional penalties depending on the state and or federal conviction.

Because of the spread of Identity Theft over the past few years, most U.S. states have implemented laws that are aimed at punishing fraudsters. On a federal level, President George W. Bush was compelled to sign a law in 2004 which was called the Identity Theft Penalty Act that requires harsher punishments for perpetrators of the crime. Though these laws may not be the ultimate deterrents, we can only hope that it makes criminals think twice before they decide it's a good day to commit fraud.

Federal Penalties

It was a landmark step in identity theft prosecution when the Identity Theft Penalty Act was signed in 2004. It changed some degrees of punishment from a mere slap on the wrist to actual federal prison time. It also escalated what was considered just a misdemeanor to a felony on a federal level. Finally, victims were getting the bittersweet justice they deserved.

Increase of Maximum Sentence - The act immediately elevates the maximum federal prison sentence from just three to five years.

Additional Time for Phishing - For those found guilty of phishing scams, there is an additional two years of jail time automatically added on top of the sentence.

Aggravated Identity Theft- A new crime, "Aggravated Identity Theft," was added to the list of offenses. It is considered used when a person commits a crime using the stolen identity, such as mail fraud, acts of terrorism, or immigration fraud. Because of this new law, criminals may be charged with more than one offense, for Aggravated Identity Theft as well as Identity Theft.

An additional two years is added to the sentence for Aggravated Identity Theft, and these sentences may not be carried out on probation.

Abuse of Power - Anyone considered to be a person of trust, such as a manager or "insider," will pay additional penalties for the abuse of power.

Terrorism an Additional Five Years – Under Aggravated Identity Theft, any terrorist-related offenses will incur an additional five years. There is a maximum sentence of 25 years for this offense, but will now apply to domestic crimes as well as international.

State Penalties

Though most states have their own versions of ID theft laws, they tend to vastly differ from state to state. Because identity theft isn't always a black and white issue, depending on the nature of the crime, most states will have a series of charges that range from fines to misdemeanors to varying classes of felony or any combination of these.

The most basic penalty a criminal can be given is compensation for any loss. For instance, if there was a financial loss, the criminal is ordered to pay back the loss plus any other damages and attorney fees incurred as a result of the crime.

If the nature of the crime is much more serious, then penalties can range anywhere from a $50,000 fine plus a maximum of five years in prison or a $100,000 fine plus a minimum of ten years in prison.

Each state imposes its own fines according to its jurisdiction, and depending on the state in which the crime is committed, this can affect the sentence given. But in the past few years, the punishments for such ID fraud crimes have gotten harsher, even on a state level. Visit your state's official website for specific information on the laws that pertain to your state.

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