As white collar crimes lawyers, we know that identity theft is one of the most serious crimes committed throughout the United States. According to the 2018 Identity Fraud Study, 1 in 15 people will become victims of identity theft. Identity theft results in a massive amount of losses for the victim, and the damages are often unrepairable. This is a serious issue because identity theft can ultimately screw up the lives of numerous victims before any substantial progress is made towards their capture.
However, when the offender is caught and apprehended, he or she will likely face a cascade of punishments enacted by both state and federal laws. If you are the victim of identity theft or if you have been wrongfully accused, you should be mindful of the punishments that come with the charges of identity theft.
What is Identity Theft?
In the broadest sense, identity theft is the unlawful acquisition of a person’s private identifying information, usually to achieve some sort of financial gain or advantage. Stealing an individual’s credit card information or Social Security number is a prime example of identity theft. These crimes are almost always virtual, meaning that they are difficult to trace for law enforcement agencies.
Usually, a victim can live their normal life for several months or even years before realizing that their identity has been compromised and is being used by a criminal. Credit and collection agencies are generally slow to respond to this dilemma, and will punish the victim until the problem has been solved. Unfortunately, the problem may never be solved until the victim takes the necessary steps to update their identifying information or report the criminal responsible for this theft.
As such, identity theft is a crime that is taken seriously by both law enforcement agencies and state prosecutors. If you are a victim, or if you have been charged with identity theft, it’s very likely that your case will be heard on the state level with serious consideration.
What Are the Legal Consequences of Identity Theft?
Identity theft is labeled as a criminal offense, and has a wide array of punishments, depending on state and federal precepts. Nonetheless, the standard punishments of identity theft are:
● Imprisonment: If convicted, an individual guilty of identity theft can face a severe incarceration sentence. A conviction that results in a misdemeanor sentence generally can lead to a prison sentence for no more than one full year. Though, felony sentences can result in several years in prison or more.
● Fines: It’s a standard procedure for courts to assess fines for individuals found guilty of identity theft. Misdemeanor fines can reach $1,000, while felony fines can easily top $5,000.
● Restitution: Depending on the sole discretion of a particular court, a judge will typically order the guilty party to pay a restitution sum if the victim has suffered an outstanding financial loss or harm. Restitution is ordered to pay the victim back their losses, while fines are assessed to penalize the offender. Depending on your circumstances, a judge may order the offender to pay restitution, primarily if your situation is deemed to be extreme by the court.
● Probation: Particularly for first-time offenders, courts may impose probation to offenders that do not commit serious identity theft crimes. Usually, probation sentences last only for a year, but some sentences can last for more than three years. Individuals on probation must comply with specific court procedures, such as paying restitution, reporting to their probation officer on periodical dates, and avoiding other crimes.
How Difficult Is It To Prosecute Identity Theft?
Identity theft is primarily a virtual crime, and it’s difficult for law enforcement agencies to track associated criminals, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t find the suspects. They investigate identity theft that takes place during online shopping and physical locations where people are exchanging your financial information. Once someone’s personal information has been stolen, the criminal responsible can access virtually anything using your identity and compromise your finances and that is a serious issue.
Once that happens, it’s often difficult for the law to step in and provide a solution, but victims have the opportunity to pursue prosecution for the person responsible. Once victims detect that their identity has been stolen, they inform their local police department and an investigation is launched.
How Does Florida Prosecute for Identity Theft?
Although you may not be able to initially identify the culprit masquerading with your identity, you can inform your local police department to take the necessary steps towards tracking the suspect.
Before you can begin prosecution, here are some vital steps you need to take:
● Call all of the companies where the fraud took place, such as your bank or credit card companies. Contact the fraud department and request that all of your personal accounts are closed or suspended. You can alternatively change your passwords, logins, and PINs for your accounts.
● Place a fraud alert with one of the three applicable credit bureaus, Experian, TransUnion, Equifax. Creating a fraud alert is free and will discourage any criminals from accessing your financial accounts.
● Report your identity theft to the FTC. Provide as much information as possible about your existing situation.
● File a report with your local police department. To properly do so, you must provide information such as, a copy of your FTC identity theft report, a government-issued photo ID, proof of your address (utility bills, mortgage statements, and rental agreements.) Make sure you also obtain a copy of the police report.
How Can A Defense Attorney Help?
Identity theft is a serious legal offense that is prevalent across the United States. With an exceptional criminal defense attorney, you can effectively prosecute any suspect, or have your charges dropped.
Consult with your attorney about your specific legal case to receive information about the best route to take in your circumstance and what your legal options.