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An introduction to identity theft

White collar crimes or illegal activities involving an exchange of money have taken many forms. One of the most common types of white collar crime is identity theft. It is important for Southwest Louisiana readers to learn more about this type of offense.

Generally, identity theft refers to the act of using someone else's personal information to commit fraud or theft. To combat identity theft, Congress created a law called the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act 16 years ago. The act states that the unlawful use or transfer of another person's identification with the intent to commit or aid fraudulent activities is considered a federal offense. Readers should safeguard personal information, such as biometric data, telephone numbers, passwords, financial account numbers, passport numbers, death certificates, birth certificates, addresses and health insurance numbers because this information is often used to commit identity fraud. This information can be obtained in a number of ways, such as from a discarded ATM receipt or credit card receipt.

The FBI has been tracking identity theft cases, and according to the agency, it is quite difficult to solve and charge offending parties with such crimes because different local and state agencies have different interpretations of such offenses. From 2008 to 2013, the FBI's investigation of identity theft cases resulted in nearly $7 billion in fines, $5 billion recovered, $78 billion in stolen monies repaid and 1,600 convictions.

Identity theft is a federal crime, which can mean that a person accused of such an offense may be facing serious consequences upon conviction. Fortunately, conviction can often be prevented by establishing a strong criminal defense. Louisiana readers accused of these offenses may speak with legal counsel to learn how to defend their rights.

Source: FBI.gov, "Identity theft," accessed on Sept. 22, 2014

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