What is the Punishment for Identity Theft?

By: Nicole Young | Views: 1330 | Date: 08-Aug-2011

Criminals who steal other people’s credit card information and use it to make money spend a LOT of time in jail. They deserve the punishment that’s handed out to them because what they do really can ruin someone’s life.

More and more, as time goes on, you hear about identitytheft and fraud. It seems like there are more ways now than ever for this typeof crime. However, what all do you know about the consequences of identitytheft? Following is an overview of how identity theft and like-minded crimesare punished.


Former President George W. Bush signed a law called theIdentity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act in 2004 which required harsherpunishments for perpetrators of this harmful crime. This act altered the degreeof punishment for certain identity theft crimes while also escalating what waspreviously considered as a misdemeanor to be classified as a felony. Many saidthat this law was a long time coming, as identity theft has been a seriousproblem for quite a while now.


Following are some of the changes that were made with theIdentity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act:


  • An increase of the maximum federal prison sentence for identity theft was increased from three to five years.
  • Those that were found guilty of phishing scams got an extra two years of time added to their sentence.
  • A new crime was added to the list of offenses called Aggravated Identity Theft. This involves a person committing a federal offense (for example, immigration violations, government theft, Social Security fraud) using the stolen identity. This law states that in this case, the criminal may be charged with more than one offense: identity theft along with aggravated identity theft. Two addition years are added to the sentence for aggravated identity theft.
  • Under aggravated identity theft, any offenses that are terrorist-related will have an extra five years slapped on to the sentence.
  • The maximum sentence for identity theft for a terrorist act is twenty-five years, which applies to both domestic and international terrorism.
  • Anyone convicted of identity theft that can be said to be a person of trust will have to deal with additional penalties for abuse of power.


Each state has its own laws in addition to the mandatoryfederal punishment. This means that a person convicted of identity theft can bepunished on two levels: the state level as well as the federal level.


In general, when it comes to identity theft, the simplestpenalty a criminal can incur is compensation for any loss experienced. However,if the crime is more severe or serious, punishment can range from a $50,000fine plus a maximum of five years in prison to a $100,000 fine plus a minimumof ten year sin prison.


While this increase in punishment is fantastic and showsthat the country is on the right path in treating identity theft with severityand all seriousness, it still isn't going to make identity theft disappearcompletely. The best thing for you to do is research the various ways that youcan protect your personal information to prevent ever becoming a victim ofidentity theft.


Katrina Robinson is a freelance writer and editorbased in Charleston, South Carolina. She writes about a widevariety of topics including health, fashion, finances, and business credit cards, and balance transfer credit cards.

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