Mar 262013
 March 26, 2013  Posted by  Breaches, Laws

Associated Press reports:

The minimum charge for identity theft would be increased to a felony under legislation approved Monday by the Iowa House.

Current law allows offenders to be charged on a sliding scale, from an aggravated misdemeanor to a class D felony. Offenders commit a felony if the value of what they purchased with a stolen identity is more than $1,000.

The bill, approved 84-11 with bipartisan support, would make the minimum a class D felony punishable by up to five years in prison. But it provides exemptions to teenagers or underage adults who use fake or stolen identification cards to enter a bar, buy alcohol or cigarettes, or purchase an R-rated movie ticket.

Read more on Esterville Daily News.

I think the bill’s sponsor is making an assumption that because fraudulent charges on a compromised card are under $1000, the motive is to avoid a felony charge. My guess would be that thieves use cards for < $1000 purchases to avoid suspicion and getting caught at all. Someone who does not look like they have money going in and buying big ticket items would raise suspicion or flags. Similarly, if there were suddenly two >$1000 purchases in card not present transactions, the banks might get suspicious.

ID theft for card fraud has a pretty high recidivism rate from what I can see in news reports, although I have no actual statistics on that. Increasing the criminal charges or consequences based on amount charged may keep people off the street longer if they are actually sentenced, but overall, I do not see much (or even any) deterrent effect of this law, the legislators’ intentions notwithstanding.

I wonder what would happen if the Iowa legislature imposed penalties on entities that did not adequately secure consumers’ information. Would that have more of an impact on reducing ID theft?

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