In general, there are four categories of identity theft. First, “financial identity theft” takes place when the adverse party uses the victim’s identity to gain access to funds, goods, or services. The adverse party may use the victim’s information to open a bank account, get a debit or credit card, seek a mortgage loan, or purchase a car by obtaining a loan under the victim’s name. Second, “criminal identity theft” takes place when the adverse party acts as the victim to engage in criminal activity. Third, “identity cloning” takes place when the adverse party assumes the victim’s identity in his/her daily life. So, in other words, the adverse party will gain access to the victim’s driver’s license, birth certificate, passport, or other identifying information. Fourth, “business or commercial identity theft” takes place when the adverse party uses another commercial organization’s name to procure credit, money, goods, or services.
Identity theft usually takes place when the adverse party gains access to some type of personal information such as credit card information, social security card, or bank account number. This information can be obtained through clandestine methods such as bribing someone who works at the human resources department. This information can also be obtained by stealing mail such as preapproved credit card forms. The personal information can be obtained by gaining unauthorized access to the victim’s electronic devices – i.e., hacking. Finally, the personal information may be obtained through gaining unauthorized access to a state or federal government agency’s database.
The government prosecutes identity theft and fraud pursuant to state or federal laws. For example, Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act which prohibits “knowingly transferring or using, without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law.” See 18 U.S.C. § 1028(a)(7). This offense carries a maximum term of 15 years’ imprisonment, a fine, and criminal forfeiture of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the offense.