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Identity Theft 101

In our increasingly digital and online world, we have heard a lot more about the issue of identity theft in the past decades. Identity theft differs from traditional theft crimes, like robbery or burglary, as it is much more of a faceless crime and often goes undetected by its victims for quite some time. We often unknowingly make so much information about ourselves readily available that we become vulnerable to identity theft.

Identity theft, also referred to as identity fraud, specifically refers to all types of crime where a perpetrator wrongfully obtains and uses the personal data or information of another in a fraudulent or deceptive way. Identity fraud usually involves the fraudulent use of personal data for economic gain. Identity theft often occurs through the internet but can also come from information in other unsecured locations, such as lost or stolen mail, trash cans, lost credit cards and wallets.

Identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in the country. In response to this issue, most states have adopted identity theft laws, which make it a crime to misuse another person's identifying information, whether it be social security numbers, credit scores, PIN numbers or other information. Congress has also passed a law making identity theft a federal crime, with several government agencies now involved in investigating and prosecuting identity theft offenses.

Laws pertaining to identity theft vary from state to state and the applicability of federal law must be assessed on a case-by-case basis; the potential for exposure and criminal liability in cases alleging identity theft are best addressed with the assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Source: FindLaw, "Identity Theft," accessed March 13, 2018.

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