Identity theft occurs when another person’s identifying information is used fraudulently or unlawfully. More than 15 million Americans have their identities stolen every year, resulting in financial losses of more than $50 billion. This means that as many as 7 percent of adults in the U.S. will have their identity misused, resulting in an average of $3,500 in losses. Identity theft is an ever-growing crime in our nation, and could actually be one of the costliest and pervasive crimes in the United States.
With the right information, a person’s credit card numbers, driving record, mortgage and banking information and criminal records can all be accessed. Because law enforcement receives so many reports of identity theft, when they believe they have identified the person responsible, they may be single-minded in their pursuit of a conviction. If you are facing criminal charges, call San Diego identity theft attorney Vikas Bajaj today. At the Law Office of Vikas Bajaj, APC, we have over 16 years experience successfully helping people accused a crime. We offer a free consultation.
What Types of Personal Identifying Information Fall Under the Law?
While most of us have many different types of identifying information, the primary information which is stolen includes:
- Social security numbers;
- Tax ID numbers;
- Date of birth;
- Home address;
- Telephone number;
- School or employee ID numbers;
- Credit card information;
- Banking information;
- Birth certificate information, and
- Death certificate information.
Once this information is secured, it may be used to make secure credit cards in another person’s name, purchase items online with another’s credit cards, use someone else’s e-mail account, apply for a loan or a mortgage in another person’s name, forge another’s name on a check, use another’s name and social security number to collect insurance benefits or welfare, or collect unemployment benefits in another person’s name.
Penalties for San Diego Identity Theft
You may have been charged under California Penal Code section 530.5, which makes it illegal to take any type of personally identifying information from another person, using that information for an unlawful purpose such as:
- To obtain, or attempt to obtain credit;
- To obtain or attempt to obtain goods;
- To obtain or attempt to obtain services;
- To obtain or attempt to obtain real property, or
- To obtain, or attempt to obtain medical information without the permission of the other person.
The prosecutor in your case can charge your identity theft crime either as a misdemeanor or as a felony, making it a “wobbler” offense. When determining whether to charge your crime as a misdemeanor or a felony, the prosecutor will consider how much the victim actually lost, as well as whether you have any prior criminal convictions. If you are convicted of misdemeanor identity theft, you could spend up to one year in a San Diego County jail, and a fine as large as $1,000. A felony identity theft conviction is more serious, resulting in up to three years in a San Diego County jail, and a fine as large as $10,000.
If Your San Diego Identity Theft is Charged as a Federal Crime
If your crime is charged as Federal identity theft and you are convicted, you could face up to 30 years in a federal prison as well as significantly higher fines. If you committed an offense which violated the Federal criminal code, or your identity theft charges are related to Federal government property, you could face Federal charges. Federal identity theft is prosecuted under Title 18 U.S. C. 1028, and makes it illegal to produce, possess, sell or transfer any type of equipment which could be used to produce fake ID documents, to use another’s identification or to transfer stolen ID documents.
Defenses to the Crime of Identity Theft
While your defense attorney will take into consideration all the facts surrounding your identity theft charges, he or she may use one of the following defenses on your behalf:
- The information you secured was not used for any type of illegal purpose (you admit to obtaining the other person’s information, but you did not use that information for any illegal purpose without the other person’s knowledge);
- You are a computer service or software provider (you may possess the information, but so long as you don’t use it in a fraudulent manner, you are exempt from prosecution);
- The element of criminal intent was lacking (you possessed another person’s identifying information, but had no intent to use that information in an unlawful manner), or
- You are innocent, you were falsely accused or you were the victim of mistaken identity (You actually did not commit the crime, another person falsely accused you out of anger or revenge, or you were misidentified as the perpetrator).
Speak with a San Diego Identity Theft Attorney Today
If you have been charged with San Diego identity theft, the quicker you get an experienced defense attorney on board, the better your chances for a positive outcome. Your San Diego identity theft attorney will ensure your rights are protected, while building a solid defense on your behalf.