Identity Theft and Protection Laws in the United States

June 19, 2020


Lots of people are casual about online security these days. For some people, it’s because they don’t understand it or know the importance, and for others, they don’t know how to handle it. That’s why identity theft has risen over the years to become the most rampant cybercrime. It’s especially so in this age where most people and all their information can be found online.

Results of Identity Thefts

Hence, every individual should take these issues more seriously. A stolen identity can result from access to your social security number, phone number, or credit card information. It can lead to maxed out credit cards, which damages one’s credit score, fraudulent tax returns, employment-related fraud, and other deceptive things done with your name.

Victims of identity theft may have to change their phone numbers, credit cards, and even social security numbers. They’ll also need to correct information that’s been falsified by the hijacker. This situation outlines the necessity of knowing the truth about laws helping to understand your rights, how they can be broken, and what to do if such occurs.

Guarding Against Identity Thefts

There are many great tools for guarding identity, like multiple-factor verifications, using strong passwords, alerts, and authentication methods. Beware when using public Wi-Fi, you may unwittingly share your data with others. It’s essential also to be careful of the sites you visit and the links you click. Some automatic downloads or attachments may contain malware that’ll be used to hack your device and siphon information.

Identity theft can be of individuals or corporate bodies, and various types. Hence, these methods may be quite limited, so most people employ professional identity theft guard services. Guarding against identity theft has key advantages, including protection against targeted cyber-attacks and blackmail, monitoring your credit reports, and having peace of mind. Safety is provided by preventing data breach and alerting you if there’s any attempt at such.

Laws Related to Identity Theft

Various identity theft laws protect citizens against the different types of said crime. This knowledge is essential to create an awareness of the right course of action to take. It also makes you know the right authorities to report specific complaints. Some of these federal identity theft laws are discussed below.

1. Identity Theft Assumption and Deterrence Act

This Act prohibits knowingly possessing or producing any documents of identification, authentication features, or false identification, which appears to be an identification document of the United States without lawful authority. It makes it a federal crime to tender such documents that were stolen, or knowing they had been stolen.

It’s also a crime to transfer or use such documents without lawful authority wittingly, or aid any unlawful activity regarding such. Punishment for these offenses varies depending on the specific offense and documents involved. The imprisonment terms range from 3-15 years based on gravity. However, if the crime facilitates drug trafficking or violence, it attracts up to 20 years; and 25 years if it facilitates international terrorism.

2. Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act

This Act defines and establishes penalties for aggravated identity theft. This crime occurs when a person “knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person during and with the commission of certain felonies.” Punishment for this crime is an imprisonment term of two years in addition to that for the original offense committed.

However, if the offense is in conjunction with select terrorism offenses, the additional term is five years. The Act guides the United States Sentencing Commission to review and amend its guidelines to ensure such offense involving abuse of position is punished appropriately. It also authorized fund appropriations to the Justice Department for the investigation and prosecution of identity theft and other fraud cases constituting felony violations of law.

3. Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA)

The Fair Credit Reporting Act doesn’t address identity theft directly. It, however, assists victims in removing negative information resulting from unauthorized control of their accounts from their credit files. It requires consumer reporting agencies to fairly and equitably meet consumer needs regarding the confidentiality, accuracy, proper utilization, and relevancy of such information.

This Act highlights rights relating to credit card reports and their permissible uses and disclosure requirements. Hence, the agencies must ensure to furnish and report accurate information. A consumer may file a suit against the violation of this Act not later than two years after discovery, or five years following the occurrence.

4. Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions

This Act includes some amendments to the Fair Credit Reporting Act to create a national standard for addressing consumer concerns related to identity theft and other kinds of fraud. It outlines procedures for credit card issuers to follow when they receive requests for an additional or replacement card within a short period following notification of change of address for the same account.

It also requires disallowing credit card account numbers on printed receipts and the addition of social security numbers on credit reports on request. People who have been victims of identity theft or who expect that they might place fraud alerts in their files must be maintained for 90 days and, if requested, it can be extended for seven years.

5. Fair Credit Billing Act

This Act provides the opportunity to receive explanations and prove that certain charges may have been made by an impostor and to have such removed from their account. It serves to protect citizens from unfair billings and credit card practices. This Act defines and establishes procedures for resolving billing errors, including unauthorized charges and charges for goods and services not accepted by or delivered to the customer.

6. Other Protection Laws

Several other laws that serve to protect citizens against identity theft include the electronic fund transfer act, the identity theft task force, and the Real ID act. They provide Americans with mechanisms for challenging unauthorized transactions and standards for issuing identification documents and increase the safeguards on personal data entrusted to federal agencies and private entities.

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