The Government Struggle to Combat Identity Theft Essay

4278 Words18 Pages
I. Introduction Over the last few decades, the world has witnessed a global revolution, unleashed by technological innovations and catalyzed by market forces. Yet even as technology has made the world more efficient, it has also made the world vulnerable to threats posed by malicious actors. These actors have perpetrated innumerable crimes and the government struggles to combat these modern criminals. One threat stands out as particularly frightening: identity theft. The ability of a criminal to completely co-opt the identity of another person strikes at the very core of individuality. No longer can the victim be assured that his place in the world is singular and unique, dependent on his actions alone; rather, he is subject to…show more content…
The weakness of Title 18, however, was its complete emphasis on fraudulent documentation. As Barry Finkelstein writes, “Previously, under 18 U.S.C. [section] 1028, only the production or possession of false identification documents was prohibited. Now because of the rapid expansion of information technology, criminals may not require actual documents to assume an identity.”2 With the surge in internet use and with the growing reliance on personal identifying information such as social security and credit card numbers, the use of forged documentation declined and criminals shifted away from traditional fraud tactics. Police, in contrast, did not make a similar shift, lacking a clear, codified conception of fraud in its derivative forms. Before 1998, “There [was] no one universally accepted definition of identity fraud,” a fact which complicated both the enforcement and prosecution of this new crime.3 Preliminary attempts to shoehorn the problem into Title 18 proved cumbersome at best and burdened the government with new legal wrangles. By 1998, the state of legislation had changed dramatically. The General Accounting Office (GAO) had compiled a report, Identity Fraud: Information on
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