If you’re accused of identity theft, you may face serious repercussions in your personal life, finances, and more. Identity theft falls under federal law. As a result, if you’ve been accused of or charged with identity theft, you need an attorney who will fight to protect your freedoms. Contact the Zeiger Firm today at (215) 546-0340 to schedule your free consultation.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft occurs any time that you use someone else’s personal identifying information for your own gain. Typically, identity theft helps an individual fraudulently gain access to goods, services, or payments that would otherwise have gone to the individual whose identity the criminal is stealing. Identity theft can include the following:
- Stealing someone’s medical information. With someone else’s medical records, individuals can get access to services and medications that they might be unable to access on their own. A patient with an addiction, for example, might use stolen information to gain prescriptions for pain pills that a doctor would not prescribe if the individual used his or her own name and information. Individuals may also use another party’s medical information to steal that party’s insurance and get the insurance company to pay for a variety of medical treatments.
- Opening credit cards or taking out loans in someone else’s name. An individual who knowingly opens credit cards or takes out loans in the name of someone else has committed identity theft. These individuals often use those credit cards to rack up debt that won’t affect their own credit rating. Credit cards and loans created through identity theft leave the individuals who open those cards or take out those loans without repercussions if they never pay off those cards. These individuals may rack up significant debt in the name of another party or in the names of multiple other parties.
- Stealing bank account information. Some individuals head straight to the cash and steal bank account information from their victims, then immediately act to drain that bank account. Others act more subtly, draining an account slowly over time in the hopes that the victim will not notice. Meanwhile, some individuals prefer to engage in microtransactions, stealing small enough amounts of money from various bank accounts to go unnoticed.
- Filing tax refunds in the name of the victim. With all of a victim’s personal information at hand, an individual can use that information to file and receive the victim’s tax refund, rather than allowing the victim to receive his or her tax refund normally. When the victim attempts to file his or her taxes, the IRS may flag the account and refuse to issue a duplicate return.
- Opening utility accounts in the name of the victim. Some individuals choose to open utility accounts in the victims’ names to dodge fees and charges associated with past unpaid bills. Others may simply want the freedom to run out on those bills instead of having to ever pay them. This move can leave the victim responsible for those bills or even prevent him or her from taking out utility bills in his or her own name in the future.
- Giving someone else’s name and information to the police during an arrest. When arrested, an individual might choose to avoid accepting the penalties in his or her own name. He or she might not want this information publicized after an arrest, or he or she might try to run after posting bail, leaving the real owner of the identity to clear up the mess.
Identity theft can cause significant problems for victims, who may struggle with damage to their credit reports. Furthermore, following instances of identity theft, victims may have difficulty opening new bank accounts or taking out loans in their own names. Some identity theft victims struggle to use their own medical benefits or to get the medical care they need due to someone else having stolen their identity. Many victims fail to realize that someone stole their identity until they cannot use their own information. Even stealing information from children or family members counts as a crime and can lead to serious penalties for convicted individuals.
What Penalties Are Associated With Identity Theft?
If you are facing charges of identity theft, you may face severe penalties that can impact the way you live your life following a conviction. These penalties may include the following:
- Prison time. Many identity thieves wind up in jail for their crimes. The length of the sentence will depend on the severity of the crime and how many people suffered due to the theft. Jail time can have serious, lifelong consequences for many individuals. When you go to jail for felony identity theft, you may lose your current job and struggle to procure employment when you get out. Jail time can also leave you alienated from friends and family members or feeling isolated from the outside world, making it difficult for you to return to normal life after your sentence ends.
- Probation. Even if you do not go to jail because of identity theft, you may face probation. While on probation, many people experience serious limitations on the activities they can take part in, the people they can be around, and the places they can go. Probation can restrict travel or force you to check in with a probation officer on a regular basis. Failure to check in with your probation officer can lead to jail time or increased time on probation. If an individual convicted of identity theft commits another crime while on probation, it can increase the severity of the penalties suffered for that crime.
- Fines. Many identity thieves must pay fines following a conviction. The fines faced by identity thieves, like other penalties, will depend on the severity of the crime and how much it impacted the victim. When you must pay fines as a result of identity theft, you may find your finances significantly limited long-term, especially if you face jail time or lose your job as part of the consequences of the crime. Felony fines may total more than $5,000 per conviction.
- Restitution paid to people harmed by identity theft. Often, the judge will order identity thieves to pay restitution to the individuals harmed by the identity theft. The restitution typically reflects the financial harm suffered by the identity theft, including money stolen from the individual or healthcare claims that the victim’s insurance turned down because of identity theft.
- Loss of some constitutional rights. When convicted of a felony, including identity theft, you usually lose your right to own a firearm. You may also lose the right to vote. Even if you do not currently exercise those rights, you may want to exercise them in the future, and a conviction of identity theft may eliminate your ability to do so, sometimes for the rest of your life.
- Loss of your public image. During an investigation for identity theft, investigators may release your name and other information about you to the public. A public trial can go even further toward ruining your reputation and your public image. If convicted, any potential employer can look up information about your crimes. Even without conviction, if the investigation has significant public records, an identity theft investigation can prevent you from securing future employment.
How Can Our Identity Theft Attorneys Help?
At the Zeiger Firm, we aggressively defend our clients, helping to protect their freedoms when they face accusations of identity theft. Having a criminal defense attorney with experience representing individuals charged with identity theft on your side can make a big difference in your case. Consider the following:
- An attorney can help you understand the laws associated with identity theft. Because we have made an extensive study of criminal law, including all the ins and outs of identity theft law, we can help you better understand both the accusations leveled against you and the legal penalties you may face as a result of those crimes.
- An attorney can help protect your rights throughout the investigation and your trial. When you face an accusation of identity theft, the police and prosecution may show more interest in protecting the rights of the victim than in protecting your rights, even if they have not yet proven your guilt. Having an attorney on your side will ensure that the police do not violate your rights during the investigation. An experienced attorney knows exactly what rights you have and how to prevent investigators from overstepping their boundaries.
- An attorney can help negotiate a deal on your behalf. Often, prosecutors show a willingness to offer a deal in exchange for a specific plea. When you accept a deal offer, you forego your right to a trial by jury in exchange for specific, minimized consequences. An attorney can help you better determine whether you should accept any offer made by a prosecutor. Not only that, an attorney can help shape that offer to reflect your specific needs. For example, depending on your profession, you may need the ability to travel freely even while on probation; or, you might need a reasonable arrangement that will allow you to pay restitution to the victims over a period of time, rather than coming up with those funds immediately. When you have an attorney on your side, your lawyer will work with you to ensure that the deal remains fair and that it fits your needs, rather than leaving you with only a generic deal.
- An attorney can help provide an objective perspective on the consequences you may face. Are you willing to face the consequences that may occur if you go to trial? If you do go to trial, what is the likelihood that the jury will find you innocent? When you work with an attorney, you will get an objective perspective from someone who knows many of the local criminal judges, has seen juries deal with similar crimes, and understands what you will likely face if you go to trial.
- An attorney can provide you with information about what will happen if you plead guilty. A guilty plea, especially one issued as part of a plea deal, can have unforeseen consequences that last throughout the rest of your life and impact every area of it. When you work with an attorney, he or she will help you understand not only the consequences of going through a criminal trial, but also the potential consequences of pleading guilty.
- An attorney can help gather valuable information and evidence in your case. When you face charges of identity theft, you may struggle to communicate with witnesses, including expert witnesses, on your own. An attorney, on the other hand, has direct access to the prosecution’s witnesses and can often get clear answers to his or her questions. Many attorneys also work with investigators to help better piece together evidence in your case. Sometimes, that evidence can help prove your innocence or create reasonable doubt that could lead to a not guilty verdict.
What Should You Do if You Are Accused of Identity Theft?
If you face accusations of identity theft, you should react carefully to ensure that you do not implicate yourself. Follow these important steps:
- Avoid speaking to investigators without an attorney present. When you speak with an investigator, saying the wrong thing can implicate you in your identity theft case. Exercise your right to remain silent rather than trying to talk your way out of the situation. You can address any questions the investigators have after you have a chance to speak with an attorney.
- Contact an attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you speak with an attorney, the sooner that attorney can start working on your behalf, putting together your defense and helping to protect your rights throughout the investigation. Waiting to retain an attorney in your identity theft case could leave you struggling to defend yourself or understand what rights you have.
- Become familiar with your rights. When you know your rights, you can get a better idea of what should occur during the investigation and how you should handle it. Talk with an attorney about your rights during an identity theft investigation and how the investigation has the potential to impact your life.
Are You Facing Identity Theft Charges? Call the Zeiger Firm Now
If you’re facing identity theft charges, you need to contact an attorney. Contact the Zeiger Firm at (215) 546-0340 as soon as possible to schedule your initial consultation.