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Identity Theft

Identity Crime Incident Detail Form

Identity Theft is a crime in which an impostor obtains key pieces of personal identifying information (PII) such as Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers and uses them for their own personal gain. This is called ID Theft. It can start with lost or stolen wallets, pilfered mail, a data breach, computer virus, phishing, a scam, or paper documents thrown out by you or a business (dumpster diving). This crime varies widely, and can include check fraud, credit card fraud, financial identity theft, criminal identity theft, governmental identity theft, and identity fraud.

Thief holding forms of identificationMichigan Identity Theft Laws/Statutes

In December 2004, the Michigan Legislature enacted 11 new ID theft laws, effective on March 1, 2005. These laws include:

Stronger tools for protecting victims and prosecuting ID thieves:

  • Criminal charges may be filed in the jurisdiction where the victim lives;
  • A victim has a right to file a police report;
  • Courts may impose a $25,000 fine and a consecutive sentence of up to 5 years commencing after the sentence on an underlying fraud crime has been served;
  • The statute of limitations for prosecuting criminals is extended to 6 years after the ID theft or after the identification of the ID thief.

The Identity Theft Protection Act, MCL 445.61 et seq, protects a broad range of "personal identifying information" - information that can be used to specifically identify an individual. This act also expanded the definition of "identity theft." In Michigan, the crime of ID theft now includes the fraudulent use - or the attempted use - of personal identifying information of another person for the purpose of committing an illegal act. Personal information remains protected under this Act even after the person dies, so that criminals attempting to misuse information of a deceased person can be punished under this new law.

While identity theft is a crime, consumers also have new civil protections. Section 11 of the Identity Theft Protection Act, makes certain practices illegal in trade or commerce, and civil penalties are available in addition to criminal penalties for knowing violations. Some of these new protections are:

  • Lenders must take reasonable steps to verify a consumer's identity before extending credit;
  • Lenders generally may not extend unsolicited credit to consumers;
  • Consumers cannot be denied credit or utility service merely because they are ID theft victims; police reports, affidavits may be submitted to establish victim status;
  • Consumers can bring private actions - violations of section 11 of the Identity Theft Protection Act are violations of the Michigan Consumer Protection Act. See section 3(jj) of the Consumer Protection Act, MCL 445.903(jj).

The Social Security Number Privacy Act , MCL 445.81 et seq, and amendments to the Consumer Protection Act introduced a variety of measures to protect the privacy and security of SSNs. Be aware that many of these provisions have exceptions or do not take immediate effect.

  • The Social Security Number Privacy Act prohibits the public display of more than four sequential digits of a consumer's SSN, encourages the creation of privacy policies describing the use and disposal of SSN information, and limits the printing of SSNs on health care cards, student IDs, and other cards, badges, or licenses.
  • Separately, the Michigan Consumer Protection Act has a new section, MCL 445.903 (hh), which limits a company's right to require customers to disclose their SSNs as a condition of doing business.
  • The Social Security Number Privacy Act has many exceptions, and many provisions do not become effective until January 1, 2006.
  • There are criminal penalties for knowing violations of laws protecting SSNs, as well as private remedies for victims.

The Michigan Consumer Protection Act now requires truncation of credit card numbers, MCL 445.903(ii). The effective dates were:

  • July 1, 2005, for electronic devices put into service after March 1, 2005; and
  • July 1, 2006, for older, existing electronic devices.