Getting the Facts About Identity Theft
Identity theft is a serious crime that is broadly defined as the fraudulent use of another individual’s personal information, typically for financial gain. Many different types of personal information may be stolen and used for fraudulent purposes, such as an individual’s Social Security number, credit card number, and bank account number. Anyone can become a victim of identity theft—and millions do, each year. You can protect yourself by becoming aware of the types of identity theft and how they may be committed. If you suspect that someone may have stolen your personal information, you can visit a consumer protection law firm near Leesburg to consult an identity theft lawyer about your rights and options under consumer law.
Understanding Applicable Laws
Identity theft is a crime under multiple laws. As your identity theft lawyer can explain to you, it is a federal crime to transfer or use the identification of another individual without lawful authority and with the intent to commit any unlawful activity. This offense is detailed in the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998. It applies to any unlawful activity that violates federal law or that is considered to be a felony under local or state laws. Congress took an even more aggressive approach toward dealing with identity thieves with the passage of the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act of 2004, which requires extended sentences for offenders under certain circumstances.
Distinguishing the Types of Identity Theft
There are many different ways in which a criminal can commit identity theft. They range from the physical theft of a person’s wallet to sophisticated computer crimes. An identity thief may steal discarded mail that contains sensitive information. He or she could even steal personal information by using discarded junk mail, such as credit card offers. This is why your identity theft attorney may recommend that you invest in a document shredder. Credit card thieves frequently try to obtain personal information through phishing, which is the practice of sending an email to a victim that requests sensitive information. The email may appear to be from an official entity, such as the individual’s bank. When in doubt, it is best to avoid clicking on links contained within emails.