Identifying Identity Theft
It is not really something that needs to be said anymore, but it is a good place for us to start. Identity theft is a serious problem. While the problem is everywhere, USA TODAY identified the four states that have the most issues: Florida, Washington, Oregon, and Missouri. Thankfully, the Commonwealth of Virginia was not among the worst; the Attorney General, Mark Herring – in a recent resource on the subject – noted that the Commonwealth is 22nd in its number of identity theft victims.
The actual ranking barely matters. As already mentioned, millions of people have been victimized by identity theft, and no location is exempt from its reach.
What Is Identity Theft?
The United States Department of Justice defines identity theft as any type “of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person’s personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain.” This is a broad definition, which is part of the reason why the statistics for this type of crime are so high.
In the Code of Virginia, the law specifically prohibits at least four different types of identify theft. It is illegal for anyone to use, sell, or distribute another person’s information for the purpose of defrauding that person by:
- Obtaining, recording, or accessing identifying information which is not available to the general public that would assist in accessing financial resources, obtaining identification documents, or obtaining benefits of such other person;
- Obtaining money, credit, loans, goods, or services through the use of identifying information of such other person;
- Obtaining identification documents in such other person's name; or
- Obtaining, recording, or accessing identifying information while impersonating a law-enforcement officer or an official of the government of the Commonwealth.
A Consumer.gov article gives a brief list of the types of information that can be stolen under this umbrella of identity theft: name, address, bank account/credit card numbers, Social Security number, and medical insurance account numbers. These are basic pieces of information that should be protected from identity theft – as much as possible – from consumers.
Defendants in Identify Theft Cases:
You hear all the time about the number of identity theft victims and how consumer information was stolen. And, you were probably not surprised at all about the information presented in this blog post so far. You are probably also pretty well educated on how identity theft works and how to protect your information.
One aspect of this type of crime you rarely hear about, however, is the prosecutorial side – the criminal ramifications for identity theft and the need for a proper defense for the accused.
In Virginia, the magic number is $200. If the victim has had a financial loss of less than $200, then the Defendant can be charged with a Class 1 misdemeanor, which carries a maximum jail sentence 1 year and a maximum fine of $2,500. Financial loss of more than $200 can be charged as a Class 6 felony, which could result in a prison sentence of up to five years.
This is a low dollar threshold between a misdemeanor and a felony. It does not take long for a charge of identity theft to cross into felony territory.
As is always the case, a skilled defense attorney is needed for anyone who has been accused of committing identity theft. If this is you, call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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