Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of
crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal
data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.
The Department of Justice prosecutes cases of identity theft and fraud under
a variety of federal statutes. In the fall of 1998, for example, Congress
passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act . This
legislation created a new offense of identity theft, which prohibits knowingly
transfer[ring] or us[ing], without lawful authority, a means of identification
of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful
activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a
felony under any applicable State or local law.
18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(7). This offense, in most circumstances, carries a maximum
term of 15 years' imprisonment, a fine, and criminal forfeiture of any personal
property used or intended to be used to commit the offense.
Schemes to commit identity theft or fraud may also involve violations of other
statutes such as identification fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1028), credit card fraud (18
U.S.C. § 1029), computer fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1030), mail fraud (18 U.S.C. §
1341), wire fraud (18 U.S.C. § 1343), or financial institution fraud (18 U.S.C.
§ 1344). Each of these federal offenses are felonies that carry substantial
penalties in some cases, as high as 30 years' imprisonment, fines, and