Federal Financial Identity Theft Crime Law Considered by Congress

Identity theft (aka financial identity theft) is an increasingly common crime in Florida that can cost a lot of time, money and effort for the victims to resolve. According to a recent study, approximately 8.4 million people were victims of identity theft crimes in the United States in 2006.

To address the increase in identity theft crimes, particularly those committed using computers, Congress is currently considering a federal law called the Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act which, if it passes, would allow victims of identity theft crimes to seek restitution from offenders not just for the amount that was stolen from them, if any, but for the victim’s expenses related to fixing all of the problems that were caused by the identity theft. When the crime of identity theft occurs, a victim can spend a significant amount of time canceling old, and obtaining new, credit card, cell phone and other accounts, dealing with credit agencies to assess and fix the damage to their credit rating and dealing with accounts that were opened and purchases made in their name.

The federal law would also expand the crime of cyber-extortion to include threatening to take or release information found on a computer. Currently, the federal law of cyber-extortion only deals with threats to shut down or damage a business or government computer.

The law would make it a felony federal crime to use spyware or a keylogger to damage ten or more computers even if the cost of the damage was less than $5,000. Currently, cyber attacks that result in less than $5,000 worth of damages are classified as misdemeanors.

Finally, the law would allow for federal jurisdiction where a person stole personal identification information from a computer even if the theft was done in the same state as the offender as opposed to requiring the computer from which the information was stolen to be in another state or country. This means the federal prosecutors would be authorized to prosecute a case even where the defendant and the computer were in the same state.

This proposed federal law was passed by the Senate and awaits a vote in the House of Representatives.

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