Identity theft is a crime that has existed for as long as people have been using aliases. With the growth of online sales platforms and as personal records have become digitized, new methods of obtaining information for the purpose of committing identity fraud are emerging all the time. As with many federal crimes, identity theft could carry severe prison sentences in Broward County, Florida. Therefore, if you feel you might be under investigation – or have been arrested – immediately consult with an Naples or Fort Lauderdale identity theft attorney.
Identity theft versus fraud
Although people often use “identity theft” and “identity fraud” interchangeably, the two terms are related, but have different meanings. Identity theft occurs when a person gains access to someone else’s personal information such as a driver’s license number, Social Security Number, mother’s maiden name, or other vital data. Once the sensitive information is obtained, it can then be used to commit identity fraud. it’s a crime in which a person either creates a fictitious name or uses a stolen name and information to commit a crime or deceive a third party. An individual who has committed identity theft may also use the stolen information to commit fraud, or he or she may supply the information to a criminal organization or to someone else who has requested the data in the interest of using it to commit fraud for personal gain.
Do not say anything that might incriminate you. Speak with an attorney first.
The federal government investigates and prosecutes situations that involve identity fraud and identity theft under a variety of statutes. The Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act was enacted in 1998 to specifically outlaw the commission of identity theft in the furtherance of a federal crime. Under the statute, identity theft is described as knowingly transferring or using, without legal authority, the another person’s means of identification with the intent to commit, aid, or abet any act that violates federal law or that constitutes a felony under state or local statutes. Depending on the surrounding circumstances, those who are accused of federal identity theft also commonly face federal charges for:
- identification fraud;
- credit card fraud;
- computer fraud;
- mail fraud;
- wire fraud;
- financial Institution Fraud.
Identity fraud and theft rings
Identity fraud and related thefts have become so common in Fort Lauderdale, Broward County and elsewhere in Florida, that it is now widely reported that more than 10,000 identity theft rings are currently operating in the United States. Some fraud rings consist of a few people while others are substantially larger. Surprisingly, some of these operations involve members using each other’s personal information to commit crimes. However, most identity fraud rings consist of people who work together as friends. There is a growing trend of members of identity fraud groups using personal information that belonged to people they know to be deceased. The decedent’s name, Social Security Number, and date of birth are used to open credit accounts and make purchases and obtain cash advances, leaving no responsible party when the bill arrives. It is estimated that the personal information of approximately two and a half million dead people is stolen each year. Nevertheless, identity fraud and theft groups and those who act alone still often use more straightforward tactics such as simply stealing someone else’s credit card to get the card number and expiration date.
There are situations in which a person may be accused of using another person’s information to commit a crime, but his or her behavior falls short of identity fraud or theft. For example, if a friend, romantic partner, or family member gives permission to use a credit card but later becomes angry and files charges, the federal attorney for the individual who used the card may argue the card owner granted permission; therefore, the accused was reasonably under the impression he or she had legal authorization to use the card at the time the purchase was made. In other cases, the accused may have used a sick relative’s card or accessed his or her bank account to pay the sick relative’s bills or to make a purchase that would benefit the account owner. This type of situation would also fall short of criminal acts of fraud and theft because the person who accessed the account did not intend to commit a crime or otherwise benefit personally from using the sick relative’s financial information.
Legal assistance for federal criminal accusations
People who are suspected of committing identity fraud or related theft usually know there is a possibility of legal trouble before charges are filed. Therefore, a critical first step for an individual who suspects he or she may be under investigation is to simply call a lawyer. Even before the person has been charged, a Florida identity fraud defense attorney may be able to help in a variety of ways. Having an attorney present during all conversations with police can help the individual avoid drawing increased scrutiny or even unnecessarily disclosing information that may lead to his or her own conviction at trial. The rampant and very costly nature of identity fraud and theft means federal law enforcement is very thorough and aggressive in its methods of investigating these crimes. Therefore, the accused party must use caution when communicating about the case and ideally be advised by experienced legal counsel at every step of the investigative and criminal court processes. Having a Broward County or Fort Lauderdale identity theft attorney like Joffe Law, P.A., with a proven track record of prevailing against related fraud charges can help the accused minimize the impact of facing these very serious accusations.