Identity Theft Can Lead to Jail

Dear Experian,

Can a person actually go to jail for identity theft? I was just curious if someone can actually get in trouble for it, or if people just get away with it!


Dear IMM,

Yes, a person can go to jail for committing identity theft. But, they rarely do for that crime alone. Laws allow for identity thieves to be sentenced to serve time in jail. Unfortunately, identity thieves often are not prosecuted to that degree simply because of resources.

The sad reality is that law enforcement has limited resources to investigate and prosecute crimes, so they have to make hard choices about what to pursue. It sometimes comes down to a simple question: "Do we go after the murderer, or do we go after the identity thief who stole information from a mailbox and used it to open a credit card account, but the credit card company forgave the charges so the victim didn't have to pay them?" The murderer is always going to be the right choice in that scenario.

That is why identity thieves are often prosecuted in conjunction with other crimes they commit at the same time. Identity theft is often the first step to bank fraud, credit fraud, or other types of crime that add up to large amounts of stolen money or property that can then be effectively prosecuted in court for greater penalties, like jail time.

So, when you read about a case where a person has been sentenced to jail for bank fraud, credit fraud, insurance fraud, or other monetary crimes, you may very well also be reading about an identity thief being thrown in the slammer as a result of the crimes he committed using the stolen identity.

Thanks for asking.
The "Ask Experian" team