Ernenwein & Johnson, LLP

The basics of identity theft: A diverse crime

Identity theft can take a variety of forms, making it a fairly diverse crime. Every case does not look exactly the same and does not have the same components. This can make it more complex and means that the specifics of each and every case, if and when it ends up in court, become very important.

In a general sense, identity theft simply means taking someone else's personal information and impersonating them in a criminal manner. The identifying information used could include:

  • A person's legal name
  • Their birthday
  • Their driver's license number
  • Their social security number
  • Their credit card number
  • Their bank account number

At the same time, the type of criminal act could take a number of forms. In some cases, it's fraud. In others, it is theft. Most of the time, it is driven by potential financial gain. The goal could be to access someone's bank account and withdraw their funds, for instance, or to open up new lines of credit in their name.

Online information

In 2019, identity theft often occurs on the internet. People use their personal information in social media profiles, on shopping websites, for university courses, for work communications and much more. While identity theft is certainly older than the internet, the internet has changed how it happens and made it more common than it has ever been before.

How is the information obtained?

In some cases, information gets stolen through direct communication, perhaps through email, on the phone or through social media. However, people can also obtain it through:

  • The use of malware
  • Data breaches
  • Internet hacking
  • Credit card theft
  • Dark web transactions
  • Mail theft
  • WiFi hacking
  • ATM skimmers
  • Mobile phone theft
  • Phishing and spam attacks

Often, these types of things work together. For instance, many people use services like Venmo or ApplePay. This means they have their credit card information and banking information on their phone. The phone may also contain personal information like their name, birthday, etc. Mobile phone theft then checks a number of these boxes and gives those who steal the phone access to all sorts of information they may use to impersonate someone else.

What if you're facing charges?

As identity theft has grown, becoming a serious white collar crime with incredible amounts of wealth changing hands, the authorities have started to take it very seriously. If you have been accused of such a crime or if you are facing charges, it is crucial that you know what is at stake. This could give you a permanent record and impact your career and personal life forever. It's important for you to carefully look into all of the legal options that you have at your disposal.

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