Youve seen the commercials on TV and heard the stories on the evening news. You know you need to preserve your credit card, bank account number and other personal information so that your identity is not stolen, your debts grow and your credit card score is ruined. Identity theft is a common and serious crime in the United States. Therefore, it is important to understand exactly what identity theft is and what the consequences of this crime are.

What is Identity Theft?

In 1998, Congress passed the Surrogacy and Identity Theft Deterrence Act, also known as identity fraud, a federal crime. According to the Department of Justice, the Act explicitly Β«prohibits the transfer or use, knowingly and without lawful authority, of a means of identification of another person, with intent to commit, or to aid or encourage another, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any state or local law. Federal agencies such as the FBI, the U.S. Postal Service, and the U.S. Secret Service are responsible for investigating allegations that someone identity has been stolen in violation of the Subrogation and Identity Theft Deterrence Act. The U.S. Department of Justice is responsible for processing any claim that leads to an arrest. Typically, federal agencies will investigate and prosecute that crime if the alleged identity theft is part of a group of thieves or if the amount of money involved is high. In another case, the investigation and prosecution of the crime may be left to state agencies. Each state has laws that make identity theft a crime and assign different sentences for the crime.

Penalties for Identity Theft

If a person is convicted of a federal identity theft offense, then, in most cases, the offense is assigned a 15-year prison sentence, a fine, and, forfeiture of any property used or intended to be used to commit the offense. However, sometimes sentences can be significantly higher because the person convicted of identity theft is also convicted of other crimes. For example, there are closely related federal laws prohibiting fraudulent identification, credit card fraud, and mail fraud. Although our justice system seeks to punish those who commit crimes such as identity theft and restore the victim to the position he or she had before the crime was committed, it is important to note that it is not always possible to do that. Many victims of identity theft have to spend a lot of money and a lot of time to prove their case and restore their reputation. Those losses cant always be paid for. Consequently, it is important for every American to take every step necessary to safeguard their identity and protect their assets, their credit and their financial future.

Talk to a Qualified Identity Theft Attorney Today

This article is intended to be useful and informative. But legal issues can become complicated and stressful. A qualified identity theft attorney can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a qualified identity theft attorney near you to discuss your specific legal situation.