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Background Information

Identity theft is a criminal offense and it happens every day to unsuspecting people all over the world. According to the United States Department of Justice, identity theft refers to a crime in which  someone “wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.” vi

The Department of Justice cites one situation in which someone was not only a victim of credit card fraud, but the criminal (who was also a convicted felon), incurred more than $100,000 of credit card debt, obtained a federal home loan, bought homes, motorcycles ad handguns in the victim’s name. Not only that, but the victim and his family were taunted by this person repeatedly. The offender was eventually caught and served a minimum jail sentence.

Luckily, it was cases like this that prompted Congress to make identity theft a federal offense in 1998. In the fall of 1998, Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, which prohibits:

"knowingly transfer[ring] or us[ing], without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitute a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law."
(18 U.S.C. & 1028(a)(7)

In most circumstances, these convictions carry a maximum term of 15 years imprisonment, a fine and criminal forfeiture of any personal property used or intended to be used to commit the offense. Federal prosecutors work in conjunction with other federal agencies such as the FBI, Secret Service and US Postal Inspection Service.

The federal government also passed legislation in 1974 that created FERPA (Family Education Rights and Privacy Act). Under FERPA, schools must generally afford students who are 18 years or over, or attending a postsecondary institution:

  • access to their education records
  • an opportunity to seek to have the records amended
  • some control over the disclosure of information from the records

For more information about FERPA and how the University of South Carolina adheres to
     these policies, please visit http://registrar.sc.edu/html/ferpa/fast_ferpa.pdf .

Keep in mind that:
It is a violation of South Carolina law to use public information for commercial solicitation.

Although institutions can no longer be sued under FERPA, you could be the target of civil action for breach of confidentiality or invasion of privacy.

Victims of identity theft crimes are now taking legal action against the institutions from which the identity thief obtains the victims’ information.
When in doubt, contact the appropriate data custodian or General Counsel.