Identity theft is the unauthorized use of another person’s personal information and/or identity. With this information, additional crimes may be committed, often in the name of the identity theft victim. Identity theft alone is a felony offense in many states.
If you are facing identity theft charges, connect with a local criminal defense attorney to discuss your case. Simply fill out the free case evaluation form on this page or call 877-445-1059 to arrange a consultation today.
Identity theft is a type of fraud that includes the unlawful possession, use or distribution of the following:
- Social security number
- Driver’s license
- Bank account or other financial information
- Any other sensitive, identifying information
There are a variety of ways in which this information may be used illegally. There are, however, some common illegal uses for this information.
By assuming another person’s identity, or using their information, the goal of the offender may be to mask criminal activities. With a stolen identity, someone might even try to commit violent crimes.
Identity Theft Charges
Most often though, stolen identity information is used to commit various types of financial fraud. Identity thieves hope to incur charges on fraudulent credit cards, take out loans or file for bankruptcy while avoiding the long-term repercussions of their actions.
In these identity theft cases, stolen identity may be used for:
Bank fraud. This includes diverting money from someone’s account, opening accounts in their name, depositing counterfeit checks, applying for loans, opening bank accounts
Credit card fraud. Applying for credit cards as someone else and then running up charges
Internet fraud. Using personal information online. This may include making purchases as someone else, or even posing as someone else on a social media site, like Facebook or MySpace.
Filing for social security or Medicare.
Employment fraud. Getting a job using a stolen name and identity
Signing apartment or business leases.
Bankruptcy fraud. Running up debts and then filing for bankruptcy under another’s name
Committing any crime under another name. If you are arrested for a crime and identify yourself as someone else, or provide false information, you could be charged with identity fraud on top of the other offenses
Travel and other immigration offenses. If you steal someone’s identity to obtain a passport, travel to another country or remain in a country illegally, this could also be considered identity fraud
All of this begins with the acquisition of personal information. Personal information may be obtained through:
- Overheard conversations
- Lost or stolen mail, wallets, identification and credit cards
- Illegal Internet activity
- Unlawful access from government and financial units
- Phishing scams
- Tampered credit card machines or ATMs
Even if you find a lost credit card and use it, you may be committing identity fraud. In severe cases of identity theft, offenders have completely taken over someone’s identity, racking up huge debts and committing crimes in the victim’s name.
Identity Theft Penalties
Most states treat identity theft as a felony offense, although the laws continue to evolve as technology advances and circumstances change.
The penalties typically depend on factors such as damage caused by the theft and whether other crimes were committed with the stolen identity.
Most states require someone convicted of identity theft to pay for damages. This includes credit card charges, property and even the cost to repair damaged credit. Penalties may also include a prison sentence and additional penalties.
However, charges don’t guarantee convictions. If you have been charged with identity theft or related crimes ‒ such as larceny or fraud ‒ you may want to speak with a criminal defense attorney.
Even if you’ve been charged, you still have criminal rights. A defense attorney can answer any questions you have about the charges you face and how state laws will affect your identity theft case.
Fight Identity Theft Charges with a Criminal Lawyer
If you have been charged with identity theft, you can speak with a criminal defense lawyer about the charges you may be facing and get advice on what is the next best step. Total Criminal Defense can connect you with a defense lawyer near you.
Simply fill out our free case evaluation form on this page or call toll free at 877-445-1059 to arrange for a free, no obligation case review with a defense attorney near you.
The above summary of identity theft is by no means all-inclusive and is not legal advice. Laws may have changed since our last update. For the latest information on identity theft laws and penalties, speak to a criminal defense attorney in your area.