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What is identity theft and what are its penalties?

For those who are accused of identity theft, it is important to understand that the allegations can be serious with significant penalties if there is a conviction. Knowing exactly what constitutes identity theft is a key factor in lodging a strong defense and seeking a positive resolution.

If a person uses another's identifying information for the purpose of defrauding for his or her use, or the use of a third person, and does so without permission or authorization, it is identity theft. The following acts constitute identity theft: obtaining information about a person that is unavailable to the general public and can help in getting access to financial information, other documents for identification, or to obstruct another person's benefits; receiving money, items, credit, or services by using that information; acquiring identifying documents in that person's name; or acquiring, recording, or accessing that information by impersonating a government official or a law enforcement officer. These laws also apply to acquiring this information and selling it to another, as well as instances where that information is used to avoid being arrested, receiving a summons, being prosecuted, or in attempting to impede a criminal investigation.

Identifying information includes Social Security numbers, names, dates of birth, bank account numbers, fingerprints, passwords, credit card numbers, automated signatures, and similar identifying methods or information. Those convicted of identity theft will be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor. If the financial loss involved is $500 or greater, then the offense will be considered a Class 6 felony. When the identifying information of five or more people has been acquired, the offense will constitute a Class 5 felony. If an individual is convicted of stealing the identities of 50 or more people, the offense is a Class 4 felony. Using the identifying information of another to avoid arrest, summons, prosecution, or for the impediment of a criminal investigation constitutes a Class 5 felony. Part of the penalties for conviction on these charges will include paying restitution to the victim.

Having legal assistance to craft a criminal defense to combat allegations of identity theft is imperative. A law firm that handles white collar crime defense, including allegations of identity theft, should be called for advice on combating the charges.

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