With an estimated 8.3 million Americans being victims of identity theft each year (according to the FTC), the punishment for identity theft has been forced into the news.

While most thieves only use identity theft to gain items under $500, there are about 10 percent who steal at least $6,000 or more.

By opening credit cards under the victim’s name, using bank account information and establishing unauthorized insurance policies, thieves can wreck havoc on anyone’s life.

In 2004, President Bush signed a law called the “Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act”.

This law placed tougher punishment on criminals who engaged in identity theft.

The law also is clear to establish identity theft as a criminal offense and sets mandatory penalties for aggravated identity theft.

The act defines aggravated identity theft as the use of another’s identity to commit certain crimes.

President Bush noted in the act that losses associated with identity theft are not limited to monetary situations. They are also linked to a person’s financial reputation, with long-lasting consequences.

Criminals who are convicted will get a mandatory sentence of five years in prison, according to the law (if convicted of giving fake IDs to terrorists).

Those who give fake IDs to non-terrorists will give a minimum of two years in prison.

To avoid identity theft, people should be careful not to reveal personal information to anyone they don’t trust.

Many thieves steal records from employers, rummage through trash, use social security numbers to get credit access, steal credit cards, steal mail, divert mail to their home via a change of address form or steal personal information from the victim’s home.