The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that identity theft losses totaled $21 billion in 2013 alone. With losses this massive, it’s not surprising that banks, prosecutors, and police are very motivated to find and prosecute people who steal others’ identities. Identity theft is so prevalent in the Pittsburgh area, that federal, state and local law enforcement agencies have collaborated to aggressively investigate and arrest those involved, through the specially-formed Financial Crimes Task Force of Southwestern Pennsylvania. Often identity theft occurs online, and police use sophisticated techniques to follow the path of Internet transactions and track them back to the computers used in the crime. If you are charged with identity theft, prosecutors will very likely have specific, detailed evidence to use against you. Based on the circumstances of your case, you can be charged with violating state or federal laws. It’s critical that you have a very experienced identity theft attorney to represent you.
What is Identity Theft?
Someone commits identity theft if they possess or use, through any means, another person’s identifying information without that person’s consent, to further any unlawful purpose. Examples of identity fraud include using someone else’s name, social security number and/or date of birth to obtain credit cards, bank loans, cell phone service or to open a bogus bank account. Each time you use someone else’s identifying information without their consent you can be charged with a separate identity theft offense.
Misuse of Credit Cards
Credit card misuse is one of the most basic and prevalent kinds of identity theft. For example, using a stolen credit card number to make purchases over the Internet or by phone.
Identity Theft Penalties in Pennsylvania
Under Pennsylvania law, the seriousness of the grading for identity theft fraud is largely based of the value involved but other factors will also have an effect:
- $2,000 or more — felony of the third degree
- Less than $2,000 — misdemeanor of the first degree
- Third offense or more, no matter what the value stolen — felony of the second degree
- An offense committed in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy — felony of the third degree
- When the victim is 60 or older, care-dependent, or under 18, the grading is one degree higher than specified
If You’ve Been Charged – Speak to a Pittsburgh Identity Theft Lawyer Today
A charge of identity theft can mean years in prison, substantial fines, and a stain on your permanent criminal record if you’re convicted. The Commonwealth will use evidence built by federal, state, and local law enforcement to prosecute you. But not all of this evidence can be admissible in a court of law, and a good identity theft lawyer can assess this evidence and begin gathering defense evidence.