The House of Representative wants to make identity theft a criminal offense, citing that the Commonwealth must make it a policy to eliminate the rising incidence of identity theft and guard against the negative effects it could inflict on the community.
Identity theft is defined in House Bill 14-231, passed by the House, as the act of knowingly using any personal identifying information of another person to fraudulently obtain credit, money, goods, services or other property; to commit any felony theft or other felony violation; to aid another in committing felony; or using personal identification information of another knowing that the information was stolen.
Personal identification includes a person’s name, address, date of birth, telephone number, driver’s license number, etc…
“The victims of this crime have the right to be protected in their health, safety, and welfare from the effects of this crime,” the Judiciary and Government Operations Committee said in its report. “By making this a public policy, it will heighten the level of awareness, [and] thus increase the level of response effort from both public and private agencies.”
Further, the committee said providing a public policy on the issue is needed due to the widespread availability and unauthorized access to personal identification information, which have led and will lead to a substantial increase in identity theft related crimes.
“With the advent of the information superhighway, identity theft can be readily used over the Internet, which does not require face-to-face contact, but only verification of confidential information,” the committee said.
“The protection of the confidential information of a resident of the Commonwealth is enough by itself to pass this measure. When coupled with the elimination of potential financial burden on the person due to incurred expenses that is not a direct result of their action or authorization, the measure becomes more vital in the protection of the people of the Commonwealth,” the committee added.
Depending on the amount involved in the theft, convicted individuals may serve a minimum of less than a year up and up to five years imprisonment with fines of $1,000 up to $20,000.
Increased amount of fines and imprisonment are also in line for aggravated identity theft—against a person 60 years or older or a disabled person.