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What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a type of white collar crime that refers to an array of crimes where someone illegally obtains someone else’s personal information in a way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.

Unlike fingerprints, which are unique, and as of today’s technology cannot be used by someone else, a person’s personal data such as their driver’s license number, Social Security number, bank account information, personal passwords, checking account information, and credit card numbers can be used when they fall into the wrong hands.

While smaller cases of identity theft can involve using another’s credit card for transactions in the ballpark of several hundred dollars, extreme cases of identity theft can involve taking over another person’s identity altogether, running up tens of thousands of dollars in debt, taking out mortgages, and buying vehicles in the victim’s name.

Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act

Simply put, identity theft is when someone unlawfully obtains someone else’s personal information and uses it to commit fraud or a theft-related crime.

Identity theft can involve using someone else’s name, Social security number, Medicare number, address, birth certificate, passport number, date of birth, death certificate, passport, bank account or credit card numbers, passwords (e.g. mother’s maiden name), or phone number.

In 1998, Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, after identity theft had become a widespread problem.

The Act amended Title 18, U.S. Code, Section 1028, thereby making it a federal crime to commit identity theft with the intent to commit or aid or abet, any unlawful activity that is a federal crime, or a felony under applicable state law.

In 2004, Congress took another step and passed the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, which established penalties for “aggravated” identity theft, which is using someone else’s identity to:

  • Commit felonies
  • Commit immigration violations
  • Steal someone else’s Social Security benefits
  • Commit acts of domestic terrorism

Under the Act, the court is required to impose an additional two year sentence for a general offense, and five years for a terrorism offense.

Are you facing criminal charges for identity theft? Contact Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney Joshua S. Davidson for a free consultation. He is a former prosecutor who is licensed to practice in the state and federal courts!