Whenever the economy is down, crime goes up. This is especially true for the crime of identity theft. In the past, the different types of identity theft punishment were not enough to compensate for the psychological, emotional and financial toll that this crime took on its victims.
Prior to 2004, identity theft punishment was generally a slap on the wrist and a finger wag. The thief would nod gravely at the judge and promise never to commit this crime again. However, within hours he or she would be sitting in front of a computer hacking into another database and stealing more personal information from other people. The pay-off for the crime has always been much too lucrative and the punishments were not enough to dissuade a criminal from repeating the offense.
In 2004, the laws and the consequences changed. George W. Bush signed the Identity Theft Penalty enhancement Act (Public Law 108-275, 118 Stat. 831-834). This law created new legislation that defined crimes, which involved aggravated identity theft. It further stipulates that the court is not allowed to assign probation for any person convicted of this type of violation. Additionally, penalties for existing identity theft laws were stiffened and included punishments consisting of two years of imprisonment for unlawful identity theft related to other specified felony violations and five years imprisonment for unlawful identity theft related to terrorist acts.
All of this has been welcome news to everyone except for the criminals. Obviously, no one wants to be convicted of a crime that is now considered a felony and involves doing time in a federal penitentiary. Unfortunately, identity theft continues to grow. The only consolation is that the punishments for identity theft are much stricter and that perhaps after doing time, the recidivism rate for this type of crime will go down.
Victims are hopeful that this legislation will eventually prove to be a deterrent to anyone considering the thought of stealing identities. However, the question that is still on most victims' minds is, “Will identity theft punishment ever be enough to compensate for what I have suffered?” Only time will tell.