Identity theft has gained more attention in recent years, especially in the digital age where people can access and share other’s personal information. Stories abound of individuals who have had their lives disrupted because someone stole their identity. Sadly, the FTC reported that they received over 1.4 million identity theft complaints in 2021. Law enforcement officials elevated some of those cases to a federal level, which brings more severe consequences and heightened attention.
When does identity theft cross into federal crime territory? You should know the distinctions because understanding the seriousness of these actions can influence decisions and behaviors, both online and offline.
Crossing state lines
One primary reason identity theft becomes a federal crime is when the activity affects multiple states. For example, if someone in Texas steals the identity of a person in Florida, the crime becomes a federal issue.
Involvement with federal agencies or institutions
Identity theft becomes a federal offense when it targets someone affiliated with a federal agency or institution. For instance, this could mean impersonating a federal agency employee or using someone’s identity to fraudulently gain benefits from a federal program.
Use of mail or electronic communication
Many identity theft crimes occur online. If someone uses the mail system or electronic methods like email or internet platforms to commit identity theft, it becomes a federal matter. This is because federal regulations govern these communication methods.
Magnitude and scale
Sometimes, the size of the identity theft operation can make it a federal issue. Law enforcement officials are more likely to treat operations that affect a large number of people or involve high financial values as federal offenses.
Identity theft is a serious crime, and when it becomes a federal issue, the stakes increase. By staying informed and vigilant, you can reduce your risk and help ensure that your identity remains secure and that you do not accidentally commit this crime.