Identity theft can take on many different forms. So, one of the most common ways is having identification documents that don’t belong to you—usually associated with debit or credit cards, and the creation or possession of a fake ID or passport. Other forms of identity theft can involve seeking benefits from the government, such as unemployment benefits or even potentially applying for business loans like PPP loans or SBA loans through the pandemic. Identity theft is anytime you pass yourself off to someone you are not to commit a crime.
When Would Identity Theft Be Considered A Federal Crime?
That will usually happen when it’s combined with another federal crime. It’s rare that identity theft, in and of itself, is charged federally. However, it is very common to see it in a case where there are other charges such as, for example, PPP loan fraud or wire fraud. You’re going to receive the initial wire fraud count, and then you’re going to receive the identity theft count because you’ve submitted it under someone else’s name.
Similarly, this can happen a lot with anything related to mail fraud. Suppose you’re passing yourself off as someone else to gain some immigration status or illegal status in the country. That case will be handled federally because the federal government is the exclusive entity that enforces immigration laws.
What Are The Legal Penalties For Identity Theft Convictions At State Or Federal Level?
Each state is different. When brought under federal charges, the maximum penalty is 15 years. That’s on the high-end. Most clients won’t be in that range for a potential sentence, but it can go anywhere from one day to 15 years at a maximum. On the state level, you’d have to look at each individual state to determine the potential liability.
What Are Some Potential Defenses To Identity Theft Charges?
One of the most common defenses for identity theft is the intent, just like every other crime. But what’s interesting about identity theft is that one of the elements for identity theft is you have to use someone else’s identity for an illegal purpose. So, to give an example, I go to a restaurant, providing a fake name for my reservation. I am using someone else’s identity potentially, but it’s not for an illegal purpose. I am not doing that to defraud anyone or to do anything unlawful. You have to not only pass yourself off of someone else but then you have to commit a crime or a felony while using someone else’s identity.
Applying for a loan under someone else’s identity would be a crime because not only are you passing yourself off to someone, but you’re doing it to gain funds that you shouldn’t be entitled to. It is comparable to have someone else’s identifying information and then fraudulently creating a credit card that you’re trying to buy things with that you’re never going to pay for. There is the criminal element of identity theft, and the same with immigration documents. You have false immigration documents with someone else’s identity, and you’re trying to use it to pretend that you have legal status to gain employment and gain access to loans or a whole host of things.
Any defense that we can prove you didn’t intend to commit any criminal act with the false identity can potentially be a defense. Another common defense is consent. Let’s say you use your friend’s name for something, and if you have their permission to use their identity, then it’s not identity theft.
Does It Change Anything Or Automatically Become A Federal Charge Or Anything Like That If It’s Some Sort Of Online Identity Theft?
No, not necessarily. What will usually make it a federal case is if it’s coupled with another generally exclusively federal charge. A widespread form of identity theft is credit card identity theft. For the most part, it’s just going to be a state crime issue most of the time. It will only become federal typically if it is coupled with a federal crime. It’s rarely a standalone charge in the federal system, but it can be.
Are There Any Other Types Of Federal Cases That You’re Seeing Growing Or Kind Of Becoming Hot Areas Of Law?
Fraud in its many forms has become much more active recently. Phone scams especially have become prevalent. Phishing for social security numbers has become a risk for many as well.
For more information on Identity Theft In Florida, an initial consultation is your next best step. Get the information and legal answers you are seeking by calling (305) 791-6529 today.