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Is identity theft a federal offense?

On Behalf of | Jan 18, 2024 | White Collar Crimes

In the digital age, where personal information is often just a click away, the daunting reality of facing identity theft charges can be overwhelming.

Many individuals find themselves wondering whether this offense is a federal crime or falls within the jurisdiction of state laws.

Federal framework

Identity theft is a federal crime in the United States. The federal government formulated steps to address this growing concern. That included passing legislation like the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998. Under this act, actions like knowingly transferring or using someone else’s identity with the intent to commit unlawful activity are federal offenses.

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act enhances the penalties for identity theft involving electronic means. This underscores the federal government’s commitment to combating identity theft in the digital realm.

Actions constituting identity theft

Identity theft encompasses various actions. They include stealing personal information, such as social security numbers or financial details, to assume another person’s identity. Unauthorized access to someone’s financial accounts, opening fraudulent credit cards or engaging in phishing schemes are all actions that fall under the umbrella of identity theft.

The jurisdictional dance

While identity theft is generally prosecuted at the federal level, there are instances where state laws may come into play. If the crime involves local elements and does not cross state lines, it might be subject to state jurisdiction. Cases with interstate or international dimensions typically fall under federal jurisdiction.

In 2022, theft, fraud and embezzlement accounted for 20.2% of federal offenses in Florida. For those accused of identity theft, mounting an effective defense is important. Whether facing federal or state charges, understanding the nuances of the legal landscape is necessary.


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