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The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998

Also Known as ITADA or the ITAD Act


The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act was the first piece of real legislation designed to go after identity thieves, but the law has some loopholes...


The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act was passed into law October 30, 1998. This law was passed by Congress when identity theft rose dramatically in the 90’s. Until it’s passing, law enforcement agents had relied on various Federal laws that protected specific information prosecutor identity thieves. The law was an amendment to Chapter 47 of Title 18 U.S. Code, enacted as Public Law Number 105-318, 112 Statute 3007, and is now legally referenced as 18 U.S.C. 1028. It is occasionally referred to as ITADA or the ITAD Act.

This law created a very broad definition of identity theft including misuse of different forms of information, including name, Social Security number, account number, password, or other information linked to an individual other than the one providing it.

    According to the Criminal Resource Manual online there are 10 specific prohibitions included in the law:
  • Producing false identification
  • Transferring identification that has been stolen or produced unlawfully
  • Possessing five or more pieces of identification that are not your own,
  • Possessing five are more pieces of identification that are not your own with the intent to give them to someone else,
  • Assessing a false identification document with the intent to defraud United States,
  • Possessing an identification document that you know was stolen,
  • Processing an identification document that looks official but you know was not provided from an authorized source,
  • Manufacturing, owning, or transferring a machine or device that can be used to produce false identification,
  • Manufacturing owning or transferring a machine or device that can be used to produce false identification with the intent that it will be used to make more of that device,
  • Trying to do any of the above.

The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of course provides penalties for violation which can vary greatly. For example some offenses can result in prison terms up to three years, however if the criminal obtains more than $1000 in goods or services during a one year period through violating this law, they can be imprisoned for as much as 15 years. If a violation of this law occurs in connection with drug trafficking or a crime of violence, the jail term can be as high as 20 years, or 25 years if it is associated with an act of international terrorism.

This act also directs that the Federal Trade Commission receive complaints about identity theft. To help with this, the Federal Trade Commission has set up the Consumer Sentinel Network. The law also empowers the Federal Trade Commission to help resolve issues surrounding identity theft. This may mean coordinating information law enforcement agency, or providing victims with restitution, which one would think means helping you get your money back if somebody breaks this law, but this is not the case.

There are some problems with this law that have received open criticism. For one thing and identity theft victim cannot sue directly, but must convince a law enforcement agency to investigate the crime. This alone has proved to be a difficult task, as any victim of identity theft will tell you. Local law enforcement tends to see identity theft as a” victimless crime”, or a crime that only affects one person, who is not actually “harmed”. Seeing identity theft in this light, police officers and detectives will rarely prioritize it in their caseload.

But the biggest problem with this law is that the victims of identity theft it identifies are not the consumers. A phrase in the law identifies the victims as those “directly and proximately harmed” by the infractions. This actually means banks and credit card companies not you and me. There is no relief provided for the actual victims to cover things like attorneys’ fees and costs associated with correcting credit reports.

Regrettably, the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act creates almost as many loopholes as it does protections. This has forced the government to create additional laws to fill in the gaps, which in turn makes it that much more difficult to take care of the problem when it happens to you.

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