Identity theft and identity fraud involve crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in a fraudulent or deceptive manner, usually for economic gain.
Identity theft is a serious crime, not just because of the monetary damages it causes, but also because of the extreme personal nature of knowing somebody is out there using your identity and personal information to defraud others.
According to a study commissioned by the Federal Trade Commission, last year alone, over 9.9 million Americans discovered they had been victims of identity theft, at a total cost of nearly $50 billion, or an average of almost $5,000 per victim.
In one of the more famous cases of identity theft, a convicted felon, not only incurred more than $100,000 of credit card debt, obtained a federal home loan, and bought homes, motorcycles, and handguns in the victim's name, but then called his victim to taunt him -- saying that he could continue to pose as the victim for as long as he wanted because identity theft was not a federal crime, at that time. The criminal then filedfor bankruptcy, also in the victim's name. While the victim and his wife spent more than four years and more than $15,000 of their own money to restore their credit and reputation, the criminal served only a brief prison sentence for making a false statement to purchase a firearm. There was no attempt to make restitution to his victim for any of the harm he had caused. This case, and others like it, prompted Congress in 1998 to create the new Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998.
If you believe you've been a victim of identity theft or fraud, act immediately to minimize the damage to your personal funds and financial accounts, as well as your credit report and reputation.
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