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Is identity theft illegal?

| May 10, 2021 | Criminal law

Do you really understand what constitutes identity theft? Most people actually do not.

Identity theft falls under the umbrella of a white collar crime. Often, identity theft is a financially motivated offense that deprives someone of monetary resources. As you might expect, prosecutors can be aggressive about pursuing those kinds of crimes. However, identity theft can also be as simple as misusing someone’s personal information in some way.

What is identity theft?

Any instance in which one person procures someone else’s personal identifying information through fraudulent or deceptive means and uses it for their own purposes can constitute identity theft.

Identity theft used to involve someone going through another’s mail for their Social Security number, date of birth or other identifying information to qualify for a credit card in their name. Hackers can easily break into someone’s email, cloud storage dropbox or online accounts and cause someone significant financial harm without ever leaving their homes now, though. 

However, identity theft can also include things like pretending to be someone else to access their financial records online just to snoop around or pretending to be someone else over the phone to suss out information about their medical condition, home address or other private information.

Many laws make identity theft illegal

U.S. lawmakers passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998, making identity theft a felony offense. Legislators then passed the Theft Penalty Enhancement Act in 2004, instituting mandatory minimums for repeat identity theft offenders. Almost every state has identity theft statutes as well. 

Police investigators invest significant resources in investigating white collar crimes. While prosecutors generally only drop cases or agree to plea deals when they lack evidence or confidence in their case, that’s unlikely to occur in a white collar crime case. You must prepare yourself to fight the charges as hard as possible. An attorney can provide guidance as you look to craft a solid defense strategy in your case.