Reader William Leonhardt writes about identity theft.

Reader William Leonhardt writes about identity theft. Credit: Tribune Content Agency / William Leonhardt

Newsday reported that a woman was sentenced to 1½ to 3 years in state prison for her role in stealing hundreds of people's identities to illegally obtain more than $500,000 in tax refunds ["LI woman sentenced in ID theft scheme," News, Jan. 16].

This sentence in grossly inadequate. Identity theft is becoming much more common, and I am concerned that our legal system is too soft.

Identity theft has created havoc in people's lives. Just look at the recent Target incident, in which the effects are still not fully understood. Identity thieves prey especially on the elderly. If we witnessed someone knocking down an elderly woman and stealing her purse, we would all agree the perpetrator should be sentenced to severe punishment.

Stealing this same person's identity is a worse crime. It has the potential to drain bank accounts of savings, destroy credit, intercept Social Security and pension payments, and cut people off from social interaction via email and the Internet. This can cause emotional stress more harmful than a mugging.

These penalties need to be more significant.

William Leonhardt, East Patchogue

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