The Senate Judiciary Committee passed legislation last week that would make "identify theft" a federal crime.

The measure passed Thursday would make it illegal to steal Social Security numbers and other personal information to open financial accounts and establish lines of credit.

Current federal law is considered inadequate because perpetrators must be caught in possession of fraudulently obtained or stolen documents. With the advent of the Internet, however, identity theft cases have risen dramatically in recent years.

The full Senate is expected to approve the bill by the end of the month.

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