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Identity theft illegal under both Pennsylvania and U.S. laws

Identity theft is a major focus in the media, both in Pennsylvania and across the United States. Because of the increasing attention being placed on these offenses, many people have questions regarding the state and federal laws under which these crimes are prosecuted.

As explained by Pennsylvania’s Identity Theft Action Plan website, state law makes it illegal to take someone else’s identifying information without that person’s consent and use it for unlawful purposes. Identity theft offenses under these laws can involve internet crimes, forgeries, credit card fraud and writing bad checks.

According to the FBI, identity theft became a federal offense in 1998 with the passage of the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. Under this law, it became illegal to engage in the unauthorized use or transfer of a person’s identification with the intent of using this information in unlawful activities.

In its efforts to combat identity theft, the FBI has dedicated substantial resources to pursuing individual cases, as well as to systematically analyze relevant data. According to the federal agency, its investigations have resulted in 1,600 convictions, fines of $6.8 billion, restitutions of $78.6 billion and recoveries of $4.6 billion.

The FBI notes that identity theft is likely underreported, as the classification of this type of crime may differ depending on which law enforcement agency is investigating a case.

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