Until 2004, the laws on identity theft were very weak. That changed with the passage of The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, which called for tougher sentences for identity thieves. It also called for "aggravated identity theft" to be criminalised. Aggravated identity theft is using a stolen identity to commit certain crimes.
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ID Theft for the Purpose of Helping Terrorist
There is a 5-year mandatory sentence for those who steal or provide identities for the purpose of helping those the United States government defines as terrorists.
Certain Crimes Committed With Stolen ID
If certain crimes are committed, there is a mandatory 2-year sentence for identity theft. Unfortunately, it is unclear what those crimes are.
Increased Federal Penalities
Before the act was signed, the maximum jail time a person could get for ID theft was 3 years; this was increased to 5 years.
There have been over 10 million victims of identity theft. Many do not find out about it until they want to purchase something requiring credit, such as a home or car. The law allows any citizen to see his credit report free of charge once per year.
Do not give out any personal information over the phone unless you initiate the call. Also, beware of "phishing" e-mails that look official, but are just disguised scam e-mails that want to collect your personal information.