Is identity theft a federal crime?
Yes. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, enacted by Congress in October 1998 (and codified, in part, at 18 U.S.C. 1028(a)(7)) is the federal law directed at identity theft.
The Act makes it a federal crime when someone:
"knowingly transfers or uses, 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."
Note that under the Act, a name or SSN is considered a "means of identification." So is a credit card number, cellular telephone electronic serial number or any other piece of information that may be used alone or in conjunction with other information to identify a specific individual.
In most instances, a conviction for identity theft carries a maximum penalty of 15 years imprisonment, a fine and forfeiture of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the crime. Schemes to commit identity theft or fraud also may involve violations of other statutes, such as credit card fraud; computer fraud; mail fraud; wire fraud; financial institution fraud; or Social Security fraud. Each of these federal offenses is a felony and carries substantial penalties - in some cases, as high as 30 years in prison, fines and criminal forfeiture.
Is identity theft a crime in my state?
Most states have passed laws related to identity theft. Where specific identity theft laws do not exist, the practices may be prohibited under other laws. See Laws or contact your State Attorney General's office or local consumer protection agency to find out whether your state has laws related to identity theft.
What federal agencies investigate identity theft crimes?
Violations of the The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act are investigated by federal law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and Social Security Administration's Office of the Inspector General. Federal identity theft cases are prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice.