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Identity Theft Laws:  Penalties Could Stand To Be Tougher

By: Michael Clark|LRL Writer

Identity Theft FraudPeople who steal identities clearly have pathetic down to a science. What kind of individual butchers lives for profit? Instead of actually getting a life, they'd much rather steal one - yours. Without identity theft laws to stop them, these types of individuals would go on an absolute rampage using other people's private lives for their own selfish consumption.

Identity theft vary from state to state, depending on the nature of the crime, punishment can range from a misdemeanor to a federal offense. Under the state laws identity theft is usually a crime to obtain, possess or use the identity or financial information of another person with the intent to commit any crime; deceive or defraud; obtain goods, services, credit, employment or any other thing of value; or harm an individual's reputation or property. If you get convicted federally, each offense carries a mandatory minimum sentence of 2 years. Subsequent offenses or high dollar amounts can get you even more jail time. Some States have specific provisions that have open-ended language that simply permits prosecution on identity theft.

There are countless cases were these sometimes sophisticated thieves have done just that. In the movie, Catch Me If You Can, Leonardo DiCaprio portrays a true to life character who successfully poses as several professionals ranging from a pilot, a doctor, and a lawyer. These are all professions where people could be put in great danger - even die. The film takes place in the 1960's, and yes, there were identity theft laws in place, even back then. Yet, knowing this doesn't deter him from going on to be an imposter in several more instances. He manages to con millions of dollars by skillfully forging checks. The police pursue him relentlessly, but he eludes them or escapes on multiple occasions. Eventually, he is caught, but it's after several years and after leaving behind a trail of tears, broken hearts, and lies.

A simple thief steals your wallet and takes your money, but an identity thief is a liar who steals your reality. Current identity theft laws are a good start, but the penalty could stand to be tougher to protect the public from such intrusive crimes.

When victims of identity theft and fraud take on the duty of trying to restore their reputations, they despair because it's such a daunting task. Suppose you took several delicate, but precious metal chain necklaces and mangled them together in a big intertwined ball. If you tug at the wrong links, you can actually make the knots tighter, and if you pull too hard, you might even break or deform some of the original chains. Well, getting things all tied up that way was very easy to do, but like most crimes, harder to undo.

Regrettably, in a great majority of cases of lost or stolen identity, the damage that criminals do in stealing another person's is quite difficult and tedious to reverse. It's an uphill climb and they don't call it that for nothing. For the victims of identity theft or fraud, it might feel like being haunted by a ghost and you're mercilessly told to just embrace it. Well, you don't want to embrace it; you simply want it to stop!

In October 1998 Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act (918 U.S.C. §1028), Identity Theft is a Federal Crime, which makes it a federal felony to use another person's identification with the intent to commit unlawful activity. Federal agencies such as the Secret Service, the FBI, and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service investigate suspected violations of this law; the Department of Justice handles prosecutions. More recent federal legislation increases penalties for aggravated identity theft, workplace identity theft, or use of a stolen identity in connection with a terrorist act.

The bottom line is, if you ruin other people's lives you should be nailed to the wall for it. This crime is a serious matter and should be treated as such. Fundamentally, identity theft laws are revised and strengthened, these individual would no longer walk away with a mere slap on the wrist after turning someone's world upside down and into a circus freak show. Finally there would be a resolute end to their masquerade.

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