Identity Theft continues to plague Americans, with over 246,000 incidents reported to the Federal Trade Commission in 2006 alone. This crime, which typically involves the perpetrator's use of the victim's good name and credit rating to steal money or property, can occur in many ways. For example:
- Store owners and restaurant workers have stolen credit information
when victims paid for goods or services with a credit card.
- Bank employees have stolen and sold information about customer
- School employees have misused information about students.
- Personnel officers in businesses have sold employee information.
This list could be as long as the number of ways in which any of us use our names, social security numbers, birth dates and other identifying information in the course of our daily lives.
If You Have Been Victimized
If you have been victimized by an identity thief, you should report the problem immediately to the Federal Trade Commission. They can be reached through the federal government's general identity theft website (www.idtheft.gov).
You should also report the matter to your local police department and, if the theft involved your credit cards, to your credit card issuer.
Law Enforcement Initiatives
To help combat this problem, United States Attorney Patrick L. Meehan added the Identity Theft section to the United States Attorney's Office in 2001. Shortly thereafter, the Office convened and began operation of the Regional Identity Theft Working Group. The Group is an alliance of local, state, and federal identity theft investigative agencies, working together to share information about identity theft crimes.
One product of the Working Group is RITNET (Regional Identity Theft Network). A computer database designed by law enforcement officers for law enforcement officers, RITNET permits the instant exchange of information about identity theft investigations. The creation of RITNET was underwritten by the Postal Inspection Service and will become generally accessible to law enforcement agencies shortly.
The United States Attorney's Office prosecutes a wide variety of identity theft cases. Charges in these cases include, where appropriate, aggravated identity theft (Title 18, United States Code, Section 1028A). This charge carries a mandatory two year prison sentence upon conviction. Other charges in these cases include:
Section 513 (counterfeit securities)
Section 1001 (false statement to the government)
Section 1028 (manufacture, possession, and use of false identification)
Section 1029 (fraudulent use of credit cards)
Section 1341 (mail fraud)
Section 1343 (wire fraud)
Section 1344 (bank fraud)
Section 1542 (false passport application)
Section 408 (false use of social security number)
Most of these crimes are punishable by 5 to 10 years imprisonment, large fines, and forfeiture of stolen funds and property.
More information about recently filed cases can be found in the Media section of this website.
Benjamin Franklin Photo by B. Krist for the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation