Essay on Identity Theft
Identity Theft is a generic term that is used to describe all types of crime in which a person wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. It is also classified as one of the fastest growing crimes with more than 9 million Americans being victimized by identity thieves every year (“Learn about Identity Theft,” 2007, p.1).
These crimes may appear to be harmless for most of people. Ordinarily, nobody becomes injured or killed in identity theft. There is also no threat or violence inflicted against the victims. No property is destroyed or ravaged. As a result, comparing identity theft to other crimes such as terrorism or murder, there are perceptions that these activities are harmless. Some may even think that these activities are not crimes. Or, even if there is a law against it, the punishment involved is not serious. Though these activities may appear to be harmless, the perpetrators of this crime may derive thousands of dollars if not millions from these operations. What may appear to be harmless for some, has the effect of causing serious anxiety, financial troubles and destroyed reputation for the victims. According to President Bush when he signed the law “Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act,” the losses are not measured only in dollars. An identity thief can steal the victim’s financial reputation. Running up bills on credit card accounts that the victim never knew existed, the criminal can quickly damage a person’s lifelong efforts to build and maintain a good credit rating. Repairing the damage can take months or years” (Charles Montaldo, 2004, p.1)
As a judge, I have to comply with existing law against identity theft which prescribes the penalty for said crime. Under Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, the mandatory sentence of two (2) years prison term shall be imposed if the means of identification of another is used for non-terrorism-related crimes. On the other hand, a penalty of five (5) years shall be imposed if the means of identification of another is used for terrorism-related activities.
In this regard, I will have to determine first the circumstances relating to the commission of the crime. If another person’s means of identification was used merely to make purchases online such as laptop computers, appliances or furniture, then the imposable penalty is only 2 years. If, on the other hand, the accused used the credit card of another to purchases guns or ammunition, to make hotel reservations, to make airline ticket purchases, all for use by terrorists, then the imposable penalty should be five years which is the mandatory prison term.
I also need to determine the number of the victims involved and the number of times the crime was committed. If the crime was committed against only one victim and that it was committed by the accused only once, then only the above-mentioned penalty can be imposed. However if the crime was committed for several times against different victims, then I will have to impose additional penalties depending on the number of times the crime was committed.
The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act prohibits probation in the imposition of this penalty. The accused shall have to spend time in jail for his crime. However, as the judge and taking into account the facts and circumstances of the crime, I have the discretion to reduce the penalty if the accused behaves properly during his sentence. Thus, if the accused has committed the crime only once and that when the crime was committed it was not terrorism-related, I can provide that if the accused behaves properly, his sentence may be reduced.