Is Identity Theft a Serious Crime? A Closer Look at This Criminal Offense

Is Identity Theft a Serious Crime? A Closer Look at This Criminal Offense

December 14, 2023 Off By Glespynorson

You’ve probably heard about instances of identity theft, maybe even read about a few cases online. We live in an era dominated by digital technology, interconnections, and transactions, making the internet a lucrative hunting ground for identity thieves and a nightmare for users.

But we can’t blame the internet alone for this crime, so we’ll thank it for its surge. This crime has been around for a while, but for the rampant rise of digitalization, it’s found its wings faster and rather unassumingly.

But is identity theft a serious crime? We’ll take a closer look at this criminal offense. Let’s get started.

Is Identity Theft A Serious Crime?

Yes, identity theft is a serious crime. Every year, more than 50,000 identity thefts and personal data breaches are reported in the U.S., and unfortunately, that number is only rising.

While financial losses and bankruptcy are perceived to be the most serious consequences of this crime, it is sadly not the only one.

Beyond the immediate toll of financial loss, identity theft puts victims through serious emotional and psychological distress.

While the seriousness of this crime escalated before the age of the internet, now it has kicked it into high gear, making it more prevalent than ever.

From bank transactions to paying for things, you’re handling it all in the palm of your hands. It’s all in the cloud. And as technology advances, so do the tactics of savvy cyber criminals, making it harder for law enforcement to identify the perpetrators.

What Happens When An Identity Thief Is Caught?

You might be thinking, for a crime this serious and pervasive, what’s the punishment? Well, the legal consequences can be tough and complicated, depending on the severity of the theft, of course.

Perpetrators charged with theft, fraud, and violation of privacy might face significant fines and imprisonment. The amount and duration of these two will vary based on the gravity of the crime.

Courts consider the extent of the damage to victims, the scale of the theft, and any prior criminal history of the offender before indicting them.

After an indictment, arrest warrants will be issued, and the perpetrator will enter a plea stating if they’re guilty or not guilty, in case no bond has been set. Then the case will be handed over for trial and discovery to your lawyer, and from there, the whole trial process will commence, which can be lengthy.

Common Penalties for Identity Theft

Most theft crimes have some sort of penalty attached to it. While laws for indicting an identity thief vary from state to state, below are some common penalties faced for the crime.

The severity of each of these penalties will also vary from state to state, as will the seriousness of the crime and its consequences on the victim.

  • Fines
  • Probation
  • Restitution
  • Serious Crime Prevention Order
  • Imprisonment

How Criminals Steal Your Identity?

There are several ways criminals steal your identity. One prevalent method is phishing, where deceptive emails, messages, or websites trick people into revealing personal and sensitive information, like passwords, credit card and bank account numbers.

Another method is skimming, which is a lot more elaborate. This is where criminals install devices into ATMs and point-of-sale terminals to steal credit card information while the victim is transacting.

You won’t even know as you’re entering your card into the machine, all the information is sent to the criminals, and before you know it, your whole card and balance are wiped out.

Data breaches are also common, where criminals will infiltrate databases of organizations, social media, and shopping websites. They extract a vast amount of personal information this way.

Another common way is social engineering, where scammers will befriend victims and get their personal information by exploiting their trust and friendship. Identity theft can also happen via hacked emails and wifi.

How To Steer Clear of Identity Theft?

In this day and age, identity theft is easy to commit because all of our information is saved on the internet. So to steer clear of this serious crime, check out some proactive and effective approaches below,

  1. Monitor your accounts regularly to spot any suspicious activity or unauthorized transactions.
  2. If you do internet banking, use strong and unique passwords for all of your accounts. Try using different passwords for each.
  3. Install security software such as anti-virus or anti-malware software on your computer. Keep your systems regularly updated.
  4. Always enable two-factor authentication features on all your accounts and applications.
  5. Educate yourself and stay informed about common identity theft tactics. Be cautious about sharing sensitive information and learn about the latest scams and frauds going around watching videos.

What To Do If Identity Has Been Stolen?

If you suspect your identity is stolen, try to keep as calm as possible, even though it might not be realistic. Do the following things to make sure your identity is recovered and the theft is reported as soon as possible.

  • Call your bank or credit card company and alert them to close or freeze all your accounts indefinitely.
  • File an official complaint with the FTC (Federal Trade Commission).
  • File an additional police report as well.
  • Secure every online account and change all of their passwords immediately. And until the crime is confirmed and your identity is recovered, use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to surf the web.
  • Get identity theft insurance and sign up for reputable identity theft protection services.


We hope this guide was helpful enough to keep you informed and aware of identity theft. With the advent of the internet, it can be hard to keep your information secure.

So the next time you’re browsing the internet or shopping online, make sure the websites are reputable and safe. Remember, prevention is the best solution, and in this case, to prevent, you need to be vigilant and alert.