As identity theft has changed and become more prevalent, identity theft law has been similarly changed and tweaked in an effort to curb the growth of identity theft. The efficacy of this law is debatable, but it is still important to know and understand the nature of these important laws concerning identity theft.
Some of the laws are just proposed; some of the laws would provide support of a financial nature to those individuals who are made victims of identity theft; some of the laws would lead to stricter identification practices.
Perhaps the most important federal identity theft law is the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, which was adopted in 1998. This Act forms the basis of combating fraud by making identity theft in and of itself a punishable offense. Specifically, identity theft becomes defined as the "knowingly transferring or using, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any lawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law," according to the US Department of Justice.
This identity fraud law is the one from which all attempts to defeat or curb identity fraud begin, as it outlines the presence of a punishable offense, and the manners in which prosecution may be pursued.
The next identity theft law of significance is the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, which was passed in July 2004. This act essentially upped the ante for identity theft crimes by setting up penalties for aggravated identity theft. Situations of aggravated identity theft are ones in which identity theft is simply one step in a more complicated process which may involve more serious crimes.
As an example, if identity theft were simply one part of a process leading up to and permitting a terrorist attack, then it would be a case of aggravated identity theft. This identity theft law furthermore increases penalties for any who perpetrate identity theft crimes after having obtained the information necessary at the perpetrator's place of employment.
The third, and most recent, of the identity theft laws of significance is the Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act. This identity theft law is actually an amendment to the Fair Credit Reporting Act which was designed entirely to help combat identity theft.
The Act gives victims of identity theft the opportunity to correct their credit reports, repairing the damage caused by the identity theft through working with creditors and credit bureaus. FACTA was also key in helping to prevent the spread of unnecessary information which could make identity theft even more prevalent, such as the listing of full credit card numbers on receipts.
FACTA required that such listings be truncated or blacked out. This identity theft law required a similar practice on the part of credit bureaus disclosing credit reports holding the individual's social security number, as the social security number can be just as dangerous for allowing acts of identity theft as can be the credit card number.
Finally, FACTA allowed for three different types of fraud alert to be implemented so as to stop credit granters from giving new credit accounts to those who were impersonating identity theft victims.
These three alerts are initial alerts, for those who suspect they are in danger of identity theft; extended alerts, for those who have officially suffered from identity theft, as extended alerts will last for seven years; and active duty alert, for military officials who are on active duty.