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What is identity theft and what are the consequences?

Theft, in all of its forms, is a crime according to the California Penal Code. In this post, we are going to specifically discuss what identity theft is, how it is harmful and what consequences individuals who are accused of committing this type of crime may face if they are convicted. As with most crimes, the severity of the crime will determine the level of charges filed and what penalties would be applied upon a finding of guilt.

Identity theft, by definition, is using the personal or financial information of someone else for unlawful purposes and personal gain. Anyone may fall victim to this form of theft, including children. Those with access to information of other people -- such as their Social Security number, credit card information or a variety of other personal details -- can open new lines of credit, obtain loans and commit crimes under the name of that individual. All of this activity can create a number of issues for the victim in both their personal and professional life.

In 2013, over 1.6 million Californians were victims of identity theft. On a national level in that same year, identity theft came at a cost of approximately $18 million. Along with the expense of this type of crime, the victims may spend years trying to clear their name and move on. With numbers such as these, and the hassle this crime places on victims, California courts do not take accusations of identity theft lightly.

Identity theft may be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony, and depending on the severity of the crime, may be considered a state or federal issue. Under California and federal laws, penalties for this crime could include anywhere from one to 30 years of jail/prison time and hefty fines. As the penalties associated with identity theft can be quite severe, those accused would likely benefit from a number of defense strategies that may be appropriate to their particular case.

Source: oag.ca.gov, "Identity Theft", , Oct. 6, 2014

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Former Criminal Prosecutor With Proven Results