COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and State Representatives Mike Dovilla (R-Berea) and Terry Blair (R-Washington Township) recently pushed for harsher penalties against scammers who commit identity fraud and other theft crimes against active-duty service members and their spouses.
House Bill 471 amends the current identity fraud, theft, and securing writings by deception statutes to increase penalties for felons whose targets are active-duty service members or their spouses. Currently, the felony enhancement is reserved only for victims who are over the age of 65 or disabled.
“Military service members protect our country day in and day out, and it’s unforgivable that anyone would commit such crimes against these brave men and women and their spouses,” said Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine. “Identity fraud against the military is increasing in our state. This newly introduced bill would give Ohio one of the toughest laws in the country with respect to punishing felons who commit identity fraud against our active-duty service members.”
According to the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, active-duty service members are exposed to the crimes of theft and identity fraud before and during deployment. While preparing for deployment, service members and their spouses must often rush to take care of outstanding issues relating to their homes, businesses, and families. During periods of deployment, service members may not be aware that their personal information has been compromised. When the service member returns home, the ramifications of these crimes can be devastating.
“As a Naval intelligence officer and Iraq war veteran, I know from firsthand experience the challenges a deployment can present to service members and their families,” said Representative Dovilla. “The objective of this legislation is to provide the tools for our active-duty military to combat identity theft and strengthen penalties against the perpetrators of this crime.”
In 2013, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 22,000 identity fraud complaints from members of the military. Last year, military identity fraud complaints jumped in Ohio by almost 20 percent.
The proposed legislation also creates a private right of action for identity fraud victims that allows them to pursue civil lawsuits against offenders. The amendment enables all victims to potentially recover up to $5,000 for each violation from the offender, or three times the amount of the actual damages, whichever is greater.
Representatives Dovilla and Blair partnered with the Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section (Economic Crimes Unit and Identity Theft Unit) in the development of this legislation.
The Ohio Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Section helps all Ohioans with consumer complaints and identity theft issues. Contact 800-282-0515 or visit www.OhioAttorneyGeneral.gov.