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An overview of identity theft


By now our New Jersey readers have likely seen the news coverage about the massive data breach involving the personal information for almost every employee who has worked for the federal government for the last 30 or so years. Although the initial reports are pointing toward a foreign government as the culprit in this large-scale cybercrime, it will likely only heighten the pressure that law enforcement agencies are under to crackdown on identity theft and Internet fraud.

Of course, identity theft isn't a recent news topic. With the massive amounts of personal data that most Americans, sometimes unknowingly, keep online, it was only to be expected that some people would attempt to take advantage of that information. Identity theft occurs when a person is alleged to have taken another person's personal identifying information, such as their birthdate, Social Security number and credit card numbers, and then use that information to perpetrate illegal activity. The illegal activity could range from making online purchases with the victim's financial information to using the identifying information to file false tax returns.

There is a wide range of activities that could constitute identity theft. Law enforcement agencies throughout the country -- local, state and federal -- are increasingly devoting time, manpower and resources to track down and arrest people who are engaged in illegal activities connected to identity theft.

However, it is important that the enthusiasm of law enforcement officials doesn't lead to criminal charges in situations where they are not warranted. A person who has been charged with identity theft is entitled to a strong defense in court, just like a person who is charged with any other type of crime.

Source: justice.gov, "Identity Theft and Identity Fraud," Accessed June 7, 2015

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