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Official Opinions

 

Identity Theft

Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes in the United States.  In 2008, identity theft complaints made up twenty-six percent (26%) of all fraud complaints in the United States.  Currently, Virginia ranks 22nd in the nation in the total number of known victims of identity theft.  Technological advances have created an information revolution that has transformed government, business, commerce, education and communication.  Unfortunately, the increased use of computers has also increased opportunities for criminal activity.  Our Computer Crime Section receives reports about identity thieves and con artists every day who use technology as a tool to perpetrate crimes. 

In Virginia, identity theft is a serious crime.  Currently, an identity thief whose crime results in financial loss up to $200 faces a misdemeanor conviction and confinement for not more than 12 months and/or a maximum fine of $2,500.  An identity thief, whose crime results in financial loss greater than $200, faces a felony conviction and a term of imprisonment of not less than one year nor more than five years.  For more details, please refer to §18.2-186.3 of the Code of Virginia.

For answers to frequently asked questions regarding identity theft, please click on the links below:

What do I do if I believe I am the victim of Identity Theft?

First contact your local police or sheriff’s department and file a criminal complaint.  Next, you should contact one of the three credit bureaus:  Equifax, Experian or Trans Union, to notify them that you believe you are a victim of an identity crime and to request that a fraud alert be placed on your credit report.  Please feel free to contact this Office or your local Commonwealth’s Attorney for assistance in prosecuting identity theft cases.

If you fall victim to identity theft while using the Internet, you should file a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).  This is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the National White Collar Crime Center (NW3C).  Its mission is to receive, develop and refer criminal complaints regarding the rapidly expanding area of cybercrime.

Our Office is dedicated to assisting all Virginians to avoid becoming victims of an identity crime and providing them with the necessary knowledge in order that they may be proactive should they become a victim of identity theft.  In that effort, we have published a booklet "How To Avoid Identity Theft – A Guide for Victims of Identity Theft" which includes helpful advice to avoid falling victim to identity theft as well as providing victims with information on the specific steps they can take when they become a victim of identity theft.

The Identity Theft Affidavit is available to you if you are involved in a dispute regarding fraudulent debts and accounts opened by an identity thief.  Rather than completing several different forms, you can use the Identity Theft Affidavit to alert businesses to the fraudulent accounts opened in your name.  The company can then investigate the fraud and decide the outcome of your claim.  The Identity Theft Affidavit is located at the back of the booklet, “How to Avoid Identity Theft – A Guide for Victims of Identity Theft.”  You may print a copy of this booklet by clicking on the link, or request a hard copy by e‑mailing us at cybercrime@oag.state.va.us.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is also actively involved in fighting identity theft. You may find it helpful to visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website found at www.ftc.gov for more information.

Where can I order a copy of my credit report?

Federal law requires that each of the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) provide one free credit report per year to individuals upon request.  You may order your free credit report from each of the three bureaus at the Annual Credit Report website.

What is the Attorney General's Identity Theft Passport?

The Identity Theft Passport is a card that you can carry and present to law enforcement or other individuals who may challenge you about your identity should you become the victim of identity crime.  

How can the Identity Theft Passport Help Me?

The Passport is designed to serve as notification to help protect victims from unlawful detention or arrest for crimes committed by anotherunder a stolen identity.

How do I get an Identity Theft Passport?

An Identity Theft Passport may be available to any Virginian who:

You may download a PDF version of the application for an Identity Theft Passport. You can then print, complete, sign and mail to this Office; OR

You may write to this Office for an application for an Identity Theft Passport:

Office of the Attorney General
Computer Crime Section

900 East Main Street
Richmond, VA 23219

All applications must be submitted in person or by mail and will be acted upon promptly.