Chances are if you’re reading this article you or someone you know has been a victim of identity theft. Even more surprising, someone you know may have been the culprit.
When we think of identity theft thoughts of some techy person hacking into a corporate computer comes to mind. This accounts for a large amount of theft but it is not the only way thieves get your information.
Identity theft has always been a problem. As the world becomes more digitized the numbers will increase. As of 2016, over 791 million Americans had become victims of identity theft crime.
Understanding the crime of identity theft can help you protect yourself from becoming a victim. Knowing the penalties involved can help you think twice about perpetrating fraud against others.
Keep reading to learn more about the crime that many of us may experience one day.
What Is Identity Theft Crime?
In its simplest form identity theft crime is the theft of an individual’s personal information for the purpose of committing fraud. Once your identity has been stolen it can be used to drain your bank account and take out fraudulent credit cards. In worse case scenarios the thief literally becomes you.
As this crime has grown, financial institutions have implemented processes to help victims recover from financial losses. This seems to have increased the crime because the thieves believe the victims will be made hold by the bank or credit card provider.
How Is Someone’s Identity Stolen?
The most common way your identity can be stolen is through carelessness. You leave your purse or wallet unattended and someone walks by and takes it. Or maybe you provided personal information to an unreliable source.
Children become a victim at the hands of their own parents. The parents use their kid’s information to get phones, cable, and other basic services for the household.
In the digital-driven society, people become victims when businesses experience data breaches. These breaches expose thousands, sometimes millions of consumer’s personal information. This data can be anything from demographics to social security numbers, credit cards, and banking information.
Phishing emails, text, and phone calls, Malware, computer hacking, and going through your trash are all means criminals use to get your information.
How to Prevent to Prevent Identity Theft?
We all bear a responsibility in preventing identity theft. As consumers, we all need to be mindful of the potential of becoming a victim. Securing our personal and financial information is crucial.
Do not leave information where it is easily accessible by others. Create difficult passwords and change them often. You should also limit the number of websites in which you store your financial information.
If you are contemplating stealing someone’s identity…don’t. With today’s technology, it is too easy to get caught. Understand that it is a crime and you can go to jail.
Is Identity Theft a Misdemeanor or Felony?
The charges and punishment for identity theft vary from state to state. There are numerous charges a person can face if charged with the crime. Each state defines charges and the penalty the suspect will face.
In Texas, unauthorized acquisition or transfer of certain financial information is either a Class A or B Misdemeanor. Whereas, fraudulent use or possession of identifying information is a felony. Depending on the circumstance the defendant can face a charge of 1st, 2nd, or 3rd-degree felony.
If charged with exploitation of a child, elderly individual, or disabled individual the perpetrator will face a 3rd-degree felony.
Nationwide there are over one hundred definitions for crimes involving the theft and misuse of personal identification.
When Does It Become a Federal Crime?
In 1998 identity theft crimes became a federal offense. Although in most cases the charges are applied at the state level. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act make it a federal crime to unlawfully use someone else’s personal information for your own gain.
If your crimes include a government agency, a financial institution, or transmission of data over the internet you most-likely will face federal charges.
When the feds get involved you are up against some powerful government agencies. The FBI will lead the investigation. Other agencies that can be involved include the US Postal Service, Federal Trade Commission, and even the Secret Service and Homeland Security.
Crimes warranting involvement by federal agencies are usually those of a more sophisticated effort. This does not mean a low-level common criminal can’t inadvertently commit a crime that rises to the level of federal involvement.
Federal charges in most cases will levy hire penalties than state charges.
What Are the Penalties?
Punishment for identity theft will vary based on the charges you face and the state where you are charged. These penalties will almost always include some form of restitution to the victim.
In addition to restitution, convictions can include, fines in the thousands of dollars, probation and community service. These sentences are usually reserved for minor offenses. They also apply to first-time offenders.
More severe punishment will include time in prison. The number of years you are sentenced to serve is based on the severity of the crime you have committed. The harm to the victim will also be considered.
If you are convicted in a federal case expect to do significant time in prison.
There is also the possibility that identity theft consequences could lead to a lifetime ban from using the internet. This happens in cases of cybercrime like hacking a computer to gain access to financial information.
Have You Been Charged with Identity Theft?
Identity theft is a crime that should be taken seriously. You can go to jail if convicted. If you have been charged with an identity theft crime you need to get legal representation right away.
Since this is a crime that varies from state to state, you want to hire a lawyer with experience in identity theft.
Request a Free Consultation with Criminal Defense Attorney Mario Madrid:
If you are facing charges in Texas and want to know your options contact Madrid Law today. We have experience in both identity theft and identity fraud.