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Identity theft affects people of all ages and income brackets in the United States. In fact, identity theft costs victims billions of dollars each year—and the problem is only getting worse. Clearly, identity theft is illegal and creates widespread harm. However, is identity theft considered a white-collar crime? In this article, we answer this question and review some of the federal and state laws related to this illicit practice. 

What is a White-Collar Crime? 

White-collar crime is an illegal act that is typically committed by people in the business world who have access to large amounts of other people’s money. However, it also involves the theft of people’s personal information for financial gain. Examples of white-collar crimes are money laundering, insider trading, tax evasion, bribery, insurance fraud, embezzlement, and the focus of this article: identity theft. 

Identity Theft and White-Collar Crime

Identity theft is a type of white-collar crime that can originate both online and in the physical world.  It occurs when an individual uses the personal information of another person, such as his or her name, Social Security number, or address to commit financial fraud. Identity theft is considered a white-collar crime because it doesn’t typically involve physical contact between the perpetrator and victim. 

Identity Theft Laws

There are many laws in the U.S. that criminalize the practice of identity theft. The first major piece of federal legislation that criminalizes identity theft in the U.S. is the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act. This act makes it illegal to use another person’s personal information to commit a crime. The second major federal law criminalizing identity theft is the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, which provides severe penalties for persons who are found guilty of committing identity theft in furtherance of other felony crimes.

Is Identity Theft a Felony?

In addition to federal law, states also penalize identity theft. In fact, in many states, identity theft is a felony. In Florida, for example, it is illegal for an individual to willfully and without permission possess or use a person’s personal information without first obtaining that person’s consent. Violation of this law is a third-degree felony, and it is punishable by up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $5,000.

Contact a Consumer Class Action Lawyer 

If you have had your identity stolen, you need the assistance of an experienced consumer class action attorney. Although identity thieves sometimes target victims directly, identity theft is often the result of negligence by institutions that store people’s personal information. When a business releases a person’s personal information without their permission it may be required to compensate the victim for their losses. For help with your identity theft issue, please contact attorney Seth Lehrman today to schedule a free initial consultation.