In the last 20 years, identity theft has become a much greater problem in the United States than it ever was before. With advancements in technology, people have been stealing others' identity for the purposes of obtaining goods, services, cash, and other benefits through "fraudulent means."
Identity theft is a term used to describe various types of fraudulent activities where someone uses another person's identifying information to commit fraud. For example, an illegal immigrant can use a U.S. citizen's Social Security number to obtain a birth certificate, or a thief can use someone else's debit card to make thousands in purchases online.
Identity theft often involves using, without consent, a person's:
- Driver's license number
- Credit or debit card number
- Bank account information
- Social Security number
- Birth certificate
- Green card
- Marriage license
- Health insurance card or ID number
Often, people commit identity theft for the purposes of immigration fraud, credit card fraud, bankruptcy fraud, and health insurance fraud. Identity thieves also use other people's identifying information to obtain goods, services, and benefits, and to obtain tax refunds, mortgages, auto loans, etc.
Is identity theft a state or federal crime?
Identity theft is criminalized under state and federal laws. If someone is arrested for identity theft, the state and federal prosecutors will decide whether to prosecute the defendant in state or federal court. For example, if the crime had to do with a small-scale operation, it will likely be charged on the state level.
If the defendant committed identity theft across state lines, or if their case was of a large scale operation, they will likely face federal prosecution. As a general rule, the penalties for identity theft on the federal level are far more severe than identity theft charges on the state level.
For example, in Florida, if a person fraudulently uses another person's identifying information without their consent, they commit a felony of the third degree, punishable by up to 5 years in prison and up to a $5,000 fine.
On the other hand, under 18 U.S. Code § 1028, if a person commits identity theft, he or she can face up to 15, 20, or even 30 years in federal prison depending on the facts of the case.
If you are facing state or federal charges for identity theft, contact a criminal defense attorney for a hard-hitting defense!