Prior to 1998, identity theft cases went mostly into information-only files, as there were no federal laws on the books to hold responsible those who perpetrated the crime. Since many of the identity theft cases crossed state lines, local and state enforcement agencies were handcuffed when it came to prosecution.
Today, federal prosecutors, the FBI, the US Secret Service and US Postal Inspection Service work together on identity theft cases, increasing the prosecution of those responsible. For example, a woman in California pleaded guilty to using a stolen social security number to obtain credit, worth thousands of dollars, and then declared bankruptcy in the person’s name, whose identity had been stolen.
In one of Florida’s identity theft cases, a man obtained names, addresses and social security numbers stolen from a website to obtain numerous car loans. In another of the identity theft cases in Florida, a woman obtained a fraudulent driver’s license by using a stolen social security number and used it to withdraw cash from the victim’s account as well as opening several store credit card accounts and charging thousand of dollars to them.
Laws Proven to be needed
Prior to the enactment of federal laws making identity theft cases a felony, some victims received calls from the thief who taunted them about their predicament. One such case occurred when a known criminal with previous felony convictions, used a victim’s stolen identity to rack up over $100,000 in debt to credit cards, obtain a home mortgage and bought several houses, vehicles and handguns, all in the victim’s name.
The thief then filed for bankruptcy in the victim’s name. Once caught, however he could only be charged with using false information to obtain a firearm. The victim was never given restitution and incurred a large debt in legal fees just from fighting the scam. At that time there were no federal laws protecting victims in identity theft cases.
Not only is the financial loss from identity theft cases increasing, the victim often suffers from a loss of reputation, often taking years to restore their previous good credit standing. As William Shakespeare said in the third act of Othello, “…He that filches from me my good name, robs me of that which does not enrich him, and makes me poor indeed.”
Remember that identity theft may hurt you financially, but it can also be devastating to a person’s reputation and ability to buy a car, get a loan or even open a new bank account.