Identity theft is a popular crime in the United States, in part due to such easy access to personal information. If someone possesses or uses the identifying information of another person without that person’s consent to further an unlawful purpose, it is considered identity theft under Pennsylvania law.
Although identity theft is most often a financial crime involving the accessing of bank accounts or the misuse of a credit card account, identity theft may also involve forged passports, driver’s licenses, medical accounts and government identification.
How does my identity get stolen?
Through a home or online inquiry, an identity thief may pretend to be a government or business office that needs to “confirm” your identity, possibly through a driver’s license or Social Security number. The most sophisticated identity thieves hack entire computer systems and steal personal information from thousands of accounts. Simpler tactics include stealing your mail from your mailbox, stealing your purse or wallet, or using a cellphone to photograph or videotape you while you bank at an automatic teller machine (ATM).
Penalties for identity theft in Pennsylvania courts
Under Pennsylvania law, each act of using a stolen identification to further an unlawful purpose is a separately punishable act.
Penalties vary depending on a number of factors:
- Amount stolen — If less than $2,000 is stolen, the crime is a misdemeanor. If more than $2,000 is stolen, the crime is a felony, punishable by up to seven years in prison for each count.
- Age of the victim — if the victim is aged 60 or older, the grading of the crime may increase.
- Accused’s prior criminal record — Prior criminal convictions increase the sentencing guidelines for a new offense.
Penalties for identity theft in Federal courts
Federal law penalizes 10 distinct acts of identity fraud, including producing, using, possessing or transferring fraudulent documents. The most serious offenses carry up to 30 years in federal prison. Under federal law, aggravated identity theft in conjunction with another felony adds two years to the prison time imposed.
Identity theft is an extremely serious crime carrying severe penalties. If you or someone you know is charged with identity theft, contact an experienced, resolute identity theft defense lawyer on whom you can rely on in Berks County, Pennsylvania.