Saturday, March 06, 2010

The Criminal Twist With ID Theft


Sure the concern with the rise of medical identity theft is warranted, especially since our economy is straining to rebound from , let’s just say “tough” times. When folks are in a financial pickle, as was certainly the case in the recent news of Ms. De la Torre, the cancer-stricken mother of three from Chicago, who just wanted her physical pain to end and turned to identity theft to help her afford the medical care that would help her do so. But when the desperation that drives identity theft leads to the ultimate crime of murder it warrants more than concern.
It’s a wake-up call that is too often overlooked. That identity theft is very often either a symptom of larger underlying threats, or can lead to more serious crimes. It’s the “siippery slope effect,” as we call it in the law – that one act can lead to another and another, and so on. Such was believed the case in a totally unrelated recent incident in Brooklyn, New York. This was a case of identity theft believing to have led to murder.
It kinda makes sense – if your victim is getting too much in the way, why not just eliminate them? That’s what criminals have done for centuries. In the Brooklyn case, the victim, a federal court translator, went missing the exact day several checks were deposited into thieves’ bank, and drawn from the victim’s account.
Law enforcement seems to have both the ammunition and the firepower to combat identity theft effectively, and frequently prosecutes, but the crime continues.
Under a 1998 federal criminal statute, for example, federal prosecutors can go after any knowing and unauthorized use or transfer of someone else's "means of identification," where the criminal intends to commit, or even aid and abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a federal offense or a state or local felony. Violations are punishable by up to 15 years imprisonment (25 years, if the crime is committed to facilitate international terrorism).

So where's the real problem in controlling identity theft?
By no means can legislation by itself effectively limit the identity theft epidemic. The effectiveness of any law in controlling crime depends not only on the existence and application of the law, but also on general recognition of the twists and turns the problem can take. Today’s identity theft in the news is further evidence of identity theft’s growth, and the need for each of us to do our part to be informed.
Written by Sue B Martines, J.D.

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