Identity theft and identity fraud are terms that refer to types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains personal identifying information of another individual. This information is then used in a way that involves fraud or deception. Most commonly, a Social Security number, date of birth, or other important personal identifying information, will be secured and used to fraudulently open bank accounts, apply for credit, file false tax returns, and commit other various crimes in that person’s name. As the world we live in becomes more digitized, this crime is often associated with the Internet. But identity thieves will also obtain personal data from garbage bins and other unsecured locations.
Minnesota Law states: A person who transfers, possesses, or uses an identity that is not the person's own, with the intent to commit, aid, or abet any unlawful activity is guilty of identity theft.
The key piece to identity theft crimes is the use of personal identifying information in a fraudulent manner. Such information includes:
Since identity theft occurs when someone obtains, possesses, or uses someone else’s information with the intent to benefit from that information through fraudulent actions, identity fraud can be committed with no substantial benefit. For example, a customer gives a waiter their credit card to pay for their dinner bill. If the waiter takes a photo of the credit card number with the intent to use it later to purchase something for themselves, they have committed identity theft, even if they never purchase anything. As long as there is intent to fraudulently use that information to your benefit, identity theft has occurred.
With the rise of identity theft and its harmful consequences, Congress passed a law in 1998 making it a federal crime. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act makes it a federal crime for a person who “knowingly transfers or uses, 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." This law was followed by the Theft Penalty Enhancement Act in 2004 which established penalties for “aggravated” identity theft. This is using the identity of another person to commit felony crimes, including immigration violations, theft of another’s Social Security benefits, and acts of domestic terrorism. The act required the court to sentence two additional years for a general offense and five years for a terrorism offense. Identity theft conviction can also lead to one or more of the following:
In the state of Minnesota (statute §609.527), identity theft offenses and penalties are noted below:
|A crime involving a single direct victim and the total, combined loss to the direct victim and any indirect victims is $250 or less.||Imprisonment up to 90 days, payment of a fine of not more than $1,000, or both.|
|A crime involving a single direct victim and the total, combined loss to the direct victim and any indirect victims is more than $250 but not more than $500.||Imprisonment up to 1 year or payment of a fine of not more than $3,000, or both.|
|A crime involving two or three direct victims or the total, combined loss to the direct and indirect victims is more than $500 but not more than $2,500.||Imprisonment for not more than 5 years or payment of a fine of not more than $10,000, or both.|
|A crime involving more than three but not more than seven direct victims, or if the total combined loss to the direct and indirect victims is more than $2,500.||Imprisonment for not more than 10 years or payment of a fine of not more than $20,000, or both.|
|A crime involving eight or more direct victims; or if the total, combined loss to the direct and indirect victims is more than $35,000; or if the offense is related to possession or distribution of pornographic work.||Imprisonment for not more than 20 years or payment of a fine of not more than $100,000, or both.|
Being charged with identity theft or fraud is a serious crime. A conviction can lead to large fines and years in prison. Talk to a criminal defense attorney as soon as you are being investigated for, or charged with, an identity theft crime as this will be essential to protecting your rights throughout the criminal justice process. Bruno Law has experience with identity theft cases and has represented many clients. Contact us today for a free consultation.