Identity fraud is a serious crime in today’s society. Identity fraud, according to Javelin Strategy and Research (2015), is the illegal use of an individual’s personal information for financial gain. Identity fraud can involve anything from using a stolen credit card to running another person’s bank account. Many individuals in the United States and around the world have been victims of identity fraud. According to Javelin Strategy and Research (2015), in 2014, fraudsters robbed more than $16 billion from more than 12 million people in the United States. This paper examines some of the most recent identity fraud incidents in the United States and discusses how individuals can defend themselves.
The following cases were reported by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in 2017. One of the identity theft cases involved Roosevelt Williams, a Florida resident, who was ordered to repay $207,882 for filing fraudulent tax returns. In 2011, Williams was arrested in possession of 14 debit cards belonging to other people. In 2013, he was arrested with 18 more debit cards. These cards and personal information was stolen were used to obtain tax refunds based on other people’s identities. In 2017, Anthony Harris, Larry Cox, and Maurice Rahmaan were charged with identity theft and falsified tax returns. Harris stole medical records for over 13,000 patients and their personal data was used to apply for credit cards.
In another case, Aamir Khan of Florida was charged with theft of personal identifying information of more than 3600 people. This information was used to file falsified tax returns in 2012 and 2013. In March of 2017, a Wisconsin lady, Billie Bottine, was sentenced to three years in prison for identity theft charges. Bottine used personal information of more than 32 individuals to get fraudulent tax refunds between 2009 and 2014. In 2016, Julio Nazario of Texas was charged with identity theft cases involving more than 800 victims. Nazario stole and unlawfully used personal details of people to prepare falsified tax returns which led to a loss of more than $4 million between 2010 and 2012.
According to the Office for Victims of Crime (2018), the following are the federal laws that prohibit identity theft. Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998 lists identity theft as a federal crime with penalties of a maximum of 15-year prison terms and fines. Another law is the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act of 2004. This law describes the penalties for aggravated identity theft. Aggravated identity theft involves the use of stolen personal information to commit felony crimes. The Identity Theft Enforcement and Restitution Act of 2008 allow the courts to order the criminals to restitute the money stolen or an amount equal to the value of the identity theft.
Identity theft is a major crime affecting may people in the country and a lot of money is stolen. The crime can be prevented by using strong and updated passwords in social media and other online accounts. With good passwords, hackers would be unable to access the personal information stored in such accounts. According to Kahn and Liñares-Zegarra (2016), these crimes can be prevented by limiting the amount of information given on social media. Fraudsters use personal information on social to steal from unsuspecting people. Another way of reducing the loss caused by identity theft is by reporting the cases as soon as they are detected. People should notify the authorities when they suspect fraud to limit the damages.
Internal Revenue Service. (2017). Examples of identity theft investigations – Fiscal year 2017. Retrieved December 9, 2018, from https://www.irs.gov/compliance/criminal-investigation/examples-of-identity-theft-investigations-fiscal-year-2017.
Javelin Strategy & Research. (2015). $16 billion stolen from 12.7 million identity fraud victims in 2014, according to Javelin Strategy & Research. Retrieved December 9, 2018, from https://www.javelinstrategy.com/press-release/16-billion-stolen-127-million-identity-fraud-victims-2014-according-javelin-strategy.
Kahn, C. M., & Liñares-Zegarra, J. M. (2016). Identity theft and consumer payment choice: Does security really matter? Journal of Financial Services Research, 50(1), 121-159.
Office for Victims of Crime. (2018). Identity theft and financial fraud: Federal identity theft laws. Retrieved December 9, 2018, from https://www.ovc.gov/pubs/ID_theft/idtheftlaws.html.