Identity theft is a complex, yet surprisingly common criminal offense. Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a significant increase in reports of identity theft and other online crimes. The team at Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A. explains what identity theft is and some of the common motivations for committing this crime.
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs when one individual steals another person’s identification to commit fraud.
This can be done by:
- Stealing social security numbers
- Stealing bank account information
- Stealing credit card information
- Stealing mail that contains sensitive information
Aggravated Identity Theft
Aggravated identity theft occurs when someone’s identity is stolen and is then used to commit another federal crime. For example, committing bank fraud using a bank account that was opened under someone else’s identity. In fact, Southern Florida accounts for the highest percentage of aggravated identity theft cases in the nation.
Penalties for Identity Theft
Though it causes no physical harm, federal identity theft comes with significant criminal penalties.
If convicted, you face:
- 15 years in prison
- Thousands of dollars in fines
It’s also common for individuals convicted of identity theft to pay restitution. Restitution payments are made to victims of the crime as repayment for funds lost due to the theft. Restitution payments may also be ordered if the identity theft was a long-term inconvenience or burden for the victim, even if they did not lose any money as a result.
Motivations for Identity Theft
1. Financial Gain
The most common reason why people commit identity theft and other white-collar crimes is for financial benefit.
By committing identity theft, individuals may:
- Take out loans
- Make purchases using other people’s credit cards
- Steal another person’s tax return
- Open and make purchases on multiple lines of credit but make no payments
Another goal someone might have when committing identity theft is revenge. Anyone who has had a credit card compromised or their identity stolen can attest to how inconvenient and stressful the experience is. An individual seeking revenge may commit ID theft in order to burden the intended victim with the consequences.
3. To Hide Another Crime
As previously mentioned, aggravated identity theft is when someone steals someone’s identity and commits another crime. In these instances, the individual who has their identity stolen may suffer no financial losses, but instead, serves as a smokescreen for concealing who the actual perpetrator is.
Defenses for Identity Theft Charges
Prosecutors aggressively pursue individuals suspected of committing identity theft. If you are accused of this crime, you need to take immediate action. Don’t delay contacting an attorney — the sooner you begin working with a legal defense team, the better.
Your defense attorney will go over all of the details of your case and determine the best defense on your behalf.
Common defenses for identity theft charges include:
- Innocence: you are innocent until proven guilty, and it is fully possible to be wrongfully accused of identity theft.
- You had permission: if the individual who had their identity stolen actually gave you permission to use their information, this will help your defense.
- Intent: as with most crimes, it must be proven that you had the intent to commit a criminal offense. However, this evidence isn’t always so clear for identity theft cases.
- Misconduct: law enforcement misconduct during the investigation can lead to evidence being suppressed and the case eventually being thrown out. An attorney has a deep understanding of your rights during a case and can investigate any potential instances of misconduct.
Miami Federal Crimes Defense
If you’ve recently been contacted about or arrested for identity theft, contact Jeffrey S. Weiner, P.A.. We have helped numerous individuals facing identity theft and other white-collar charges and are very familiar with how these cases are handled. Get started with our team today by filling out our online consultation request form here, or calling our office at (305) 985-6640.