Identity theft is a white collar crime that can happen in the online world as well as in the physical world. It occurs when a person uses the name, address, social security number, or other identifying information of another individual to commit a scam. In New Orleans, individuals have been charged with identity theft based on allegedly obtaining fraudulent credit cards, securing government benefits, and other types of deceptive practices.
With the advent of the Internet, many people now engage in online shopping and commerce. Unlike when a person goes to an actual store and must provide verification of his identity before he is allowed to use a credit card, in online stores a person often only needs a few basic pieces of information to make a purchase. Mistakes can be made in the entry and processing steps of making online purchases and when major mistakes go unchecked individuals may find themselves facing claims of identity theft for errors they did not realize they committed.
There are two major pieces of legislation that criminalize identity theft in the United States. The first is the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act which makes it illegal to use the information of another person to commit a crime. The second is the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act and it provides more severe penalties for individuals who are convicted of committing identity theft in order to participate in felony crimes.
Identity theft is a white collar crime because it there generally is not physical contact between the alleged victim and the alleged perpetrator. With so many shopping and personal account systems accessible through the Internet, Americans should be vigilant about the security of their contact information. Not only to make sure that they have not become victims of identity theft but also to ensure that their information has not been erroneously attributed to other individuals.