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Identity Fraud and Identity Theft are Two Different Things
Identity crimes are considered to be federal felony offenses with serious ramifications under the Federal Sentencing Guidelines if convicted of either charge. However, not all identity crimes are the same.
- Identity fraud charges involve an allegation that someone has used a credit card, debit card, or online store account information to purchase an item or to take some cash without authorization or permission. Here, there is a charge that someone took advantage of another person’s identification information for personal gain in a narrow, concrete set of circumstances (say, a few unauthorized purchase transactions).
- Identity theft is a bigger set of circumstances than identity fraud. In cases where identity theft is alleged, someone is charged with taking personal information of someone else and using that information to step into their shoes for financial or personal gain: new credit card accounts are opened; loan applications are submitted; assets (RVs, cars, etc.) can be purchased using the stolen identity’s good credit record.
Federal Charges for Identity Theft and Identity Fraud Likely to Escalate in the Future
In today’s modern internet-era, the ability to access someone’s personal information is much easier than in times past where this kind of information was found only in places like purses, wallets, paper financial records, medical histories, bank account files, and the like. Today, bank account information, credit card numbers, debit card numbers, Social Security numbers, as well as birthdays, mother’s maiden name, passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs) and other identifying data are all placed online and stored on computer databanks and in the cloud.
Accordingly, charges of identity fraud using this easier to access information continues to rise as more and more people take advantage of the ease and convenience of shopping online, banking via web sites, and storing information at sites like Google Drive. Often, people are using internet access without taking security measures (security software, etc.) that might shield their information from view.
More and more often, there are federal investigations that are undertaken from keyboards as inquiries progress to find how and when unauthorized persons have grabbed money through internet access to bank accounts or shopping sites. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, and the Federal Trade Commission are all active in investigating and pursuing charges of identity fraud and identity theft.
The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act of 1998
In response to changing times and technological advances, new federal laws have been enacted including 18 USC 1028, “the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act.” This federal law provides that identity theft is a federal crime where someone:
“knowingly transfer[s] or use[s], without lawful authority, a means of identification of another person with the intent to commit, or to aid or abet, any unlawful activity that constitutes a violation of Federal law, or that constitutes a felony under any applicable State or local law.”
As part of the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, punishment is defined upon conviction as having a maximum sentence of 15 years’ imprisonment along with forfeiture of property used or intended to be used to commit the crime itself.
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Other Federal Crimes Involving Identity Theft or Identity Fraud
Federal prosecutors will attempt to add charges from a variety of federal statutes in situations where identity theft or identity fraud is at issue; the above Act is not the only tool at the disposal of federal authorities in making federal charges here.
For instance, identity theft or identity fraud can be a part of federal felony charges involving:
- mortgage fraud
- mail fraud
- wire fraud
- bank fraud.
Defending Against Charges of Identity Theft or Identity Fraud
When someone is suspected of identity theft or identity fraud, they may not be aware that a criminal investigation may have been working against their interests for some time: weeks, months, in some cases, even years. Computer crime investigations involving unauthorized access to personal information can be quietly undertaken simply because of the advanced technology available to law enforcement.
Consequently, in cases of identity theft or identity fraud, anyone who thinks they may be facing charges and arrest would benefit from early counsel from an experienced identity theft defense lawyer. Online fraud cases are sophisticated and their fact patterns are intricate – fact patterns that will be used by law enforcement to build evidence for trial.
Defense attorneys must sift through this data and determine if the elements of the crime (or crimes) can be shown beyond a reasonable doubt by the government. Usually, computer experts and other third party experts (banking, finance, real estate, retail, credit, etc.) are needed to help in these matters. Identity theft defense lawyers will use complicated evidence to refute that the prosecution can connect the charges or unauthorized use to the defendant through documents or data they claim supports their allegations of things like:
- Credit card charges
- Debit card charges
- False financial applications for credit
- False financial applications for purchase or
- Hacking into computer accounts.
Dallas Identity Fraud | Identity Theft Defense Lawyer
As a former prosecutor turned criminal defense lawyer with over 150 jury trials defending clients against charges brought by district attorneys and U.S. federal prosecutors in Dallas County, Tarrant County, and elsewhere in the State of Texas, Board Certified Criminal Lawyer Michael Lowe not only brings his years of experience to each case, he also dedicates 100% of his law practice to the defense of those being accused of a crime under Texas or federal law.
With a streamlined law firm that coordinates its efforts to give each client the personal attention that they need and deserve when fighting against the government and the possibility of jail time, fines, permanent marks on public records, prison incarceration, loss of licensure, loss of jobs, absence from family events and everyday living, Michael Lowe maintains an efficient and excellent criminal trial practice that is ready to help you or your loved ones in your defense against criminal charges from pre-arrest investigation to post-trial appeals.
To discuss your case in a free and completely confidential consultation, please contact Dallas Board Certified Criminal Lawyer Michael Lowe today.