Identity theft seems like an insignificant crime, but being charged and convicted of identity theft can result in severe penalties. If you or a loved one has recently been charged with identity theft, the only way to avoid these penalties is to present a compelling argument for your innocence.
You have the option to defend yourself on your own or rely on a public defender, but people who hire their own Anaheim identity theft lawyer usually are in the best position to win their cases. If you need an attorney, trust the Simmrin Law Group to supply you with the support you need today.
The Definition of Identity Theft
According to The Department of Justice, identity theft is any criminal behavior that involves stealing someone else’s personal information to use it to deceive or defraud others. Cases of identity theft often entail someone stealing personal information to use it illegally for the purpose of financial gain.
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Stealing Any Personal Information Can Lead to Identity Theft Charges
You can be charged with identity theft if you are associated with the theft of a person’s personal information. Illegally accessing or retaining any of the following forms of personal information can result in you being charged with identity theft.
Basic Identifying Information
Your basic identifying information includes information that may be easy for someone else to find out by happenstance. Birthdays, names, addresses, and phone numbers are great examples. The personal information included in this category can be used to access accounts, sign up for certain services, and perform other actions.
Because there is not much potential for harm when someone steals basic identifying information, being caught with it may not result in criminal charges. If someone is charged, the charge will likely be a misdemeanor.
Social Security Numbers
Your Social Security number is a number that the government uses to identify who you are specifically. This number rarely changes, and if it is stolen, the process of getting a new Social Security number is quite complicated.
With someone’s Social Security number, identity thieves can commit a broad range of crimes. This includes several forms of financial identity theft, like filling out fake bank or credit card applications. Thieves can also use Social Security numbers during a trip to the hospital so that the medical facility can try to collect payment for their expenses from the victim.
In worse instances, criminals can use a Social Security number when they are arrested or charged with a crime. This could lead to an arrest warrant being associated with a person, which can have frustrating consequences.
Bank and Credit Card Information
Many financial institutions offer their customers the ability to make purchases using a string of characters that gives payment processors access to their money. When someone steals a debit or credit card, or the information featured on those cards, they can make purchases as if they were the cardholder.
If the victim is unaware of the identity theft, significant charges can be racked up before they even notice. This can compromise their credit score, bury them in unwarranted debt, and cause a host of other issues.
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When Is Identity Theft a Felony?
Identity theft is always a crime. It is not always prosecuted in the same way. Stealing someone’s identity alone may not always be enough to result in criminal charges.
Whether you are charged with identity theft often depends on how the information you stole was used rather than your illicit access to that information. Simply knowing another person’s credit card number is not a crime. The act of illegally obtaining that information may be a crime under the right conditions, but the real offense occurs when that card number is used to make an unauthorized purchase.
Whether this or other forms of identity theft qualifies as a felony depends on the circumstances because identity theft is a wobbler in most states. This means the crime can result in either misdemeanor or felony charges.
Misdemeanors Are Determined by the Value of the Theft
The value of identity theft is important in determining the status of the charges, with cases that range between $500-$1,000 of stolen goods often falling into the misdemeanor category. Another important detail is the number of stolen identities in one person’s possession. If someone is caught with more than one stolen identity, they risk being charged with felony trafficking of stolen identities.
You Need an Identity Theft Lawyer in Anaheim to Defend Your Rights
When you are being tried for identity theft, the judge will be looking to find out if you were the person who stole identities to achieve financial gain. If they already know that you had the identities in your possession, your only option is to prove to them that you did not use the other persons’ identities illegally. Doing so disproves the claim made by the prosecutor.
Understand that simply having someone else’s personal information is not always enough for the prosecutor to land a conviction. They will also need to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you used the personal information maliciously. The charges will be dismissed or reduced if they cannot do so.
Someone caught with multiple stolen identities may be in a different situation, as their charges may be for trafficking of stolen identities. In these cases, it may not matter if you did not actually use the stolen identities. To get the best advice, you need to speak to an identity theft attorney in Anaheim who will evaluate your case to find out what defense makes the most sense.
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Avoid Identity Theft Penalties
An Anaheim identity theft attorney can help you avoid the penalties associated with being caught using someone else’s identity. If you did not commit the crime, we can prove to the judge that the fact that you held the stolen personal information was simply a coincidence. Even if you did steal the information, Simmrin Law Group can also help minimize the consequences you face for your mistake.
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