Could Your Actions Be Construed as Identity Theft? Here’s What You Need to Know

Identity theft refers to the process of collecting and/or using another party’s personal identifying information for illegal purposes. One common example is using your social security number to obtain a credit card or bank loan in your name. Because the thief often defaults on the obligation after maxing it out, identity theft can wreak havoc on the victim’s credit rating and cause long-term financial problems for them.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, approximately nine million Americans have their identities stolen every year. Victims often fail to realize their situation until they are rejected for credit or check their credit report. Because the damage can be so extensive, both Congress and state legislatures have passed laws dealing with this epidemic, with very severe penalties upon conviction.

Federal vs. State Penalties

Florida Statutes §817.568 makes it a third degree felony, punishable by a maximum of five years imprisonment to possess another person’s identifying information without their permission, and if you actually use it to obtain goods or services valued at $5,000 or more, the charge can be upped to a second degree felony,punishable by a maximum of fifteen years imprisonment . If an individual’s ID was used to obtain something worth $50,000 or more, the offender will be charged with a first degree felony, which punishable by a maximum of thirty years imprisonment!

Identity theft crimes covered under this statute include:

  • Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information
  • Criminal Use of Personal Identification Information to Harass
  • Use of a Minor’s Personal Identification Information
  • Use of a Deceased Person’s Personal Identification Information

A federal law, the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998, provides equally harsh penalties for convicted defendants. Depending on the nature of the theft, the value of the stolen benefits, and whether you have a prior conviction, you can face 5-15 years in federal prison, and an additional two year minimum mandatory sentence which must be served consecutively to any other sentences imposed by the court. If the crime was believed to be connected to a violent crime or drug trafficking, the penalty may increase to 20 years. Acts of identity theft can be punished by 30 years in prison if connected to domestic terrorism.

Accidental Identity Theft

Unfortunately, there are times when you could be charged with identity theft when you had no intention of doing anything illegal. One common example is ‘familiar fraud,’ when your identifying information is used by people you know to obtain credit and other advantages.

While this is often done with malicious intent, there are cases when people believed that they had a legal right to use someone else’s information. For example, if you keep being denied for credit and a friend suggests that you apply for a card in his name, you are committing identity theft even though you have permission. Similarly, a parent or guardian is committing a second degree felony when they use a minor’s personal identification information, even though they believe that their position allows them to do so and they intend for any gains to benefit the minor.

If you have been charged with identity theft  in Florida or in any federal court, contact the Law Offices of Barry M. Wax immediately. In addition the severe punishment you potentially face if convicted, an identity theft charge could make it nearly impossible to find gainful employment, take out a loan, or even rent an apartment. Protect your future by calling us today.

Law Offices of Barry M. Wax