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What is identity theft?

Pennsylvania residents may be aware of something called identity theft. This occurs when a person or entity takes personal information from another party without his or her consent. This information could be anything from a Social Security number to a credit card number. Under the federal Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, knowingly transferring such information with the intent to commit a crime is considered a felony.

It is believed that the scope of identity theft is greater than what is being reported. This is because different law enforcement agencies will classify identity theft differently. In some cases, what may be identity theft is considered credit card fraud or mail fraud. The FBI has begun to dedicate more resources to analyzing possible identity theft as well as additional resources to investigate such crimes.

In a five year period between 2008 and 2013, 1,600 people have been convicted due to FBI investigations into identity theft. Due to those investigations, $78.6 billion in restitution has been paid in that time period. Furthermore, $4.6 billion has been recovered and another $6.8 billion has been paid in fines. In February 2013 alone, 29 people were charged in tax and credit card fraud schemes involving more than 7,000 stolen identities, which were used to steal a total of $234 million.

Anyone who is charged with identity theft may need a criminal defense lawyer. Possible penalties for identity theft include incarceration, a fine and restitution to victims. An attorney may be able to reach a plea deal or have an identity theft charge dismissed in court through raising a variety of possible defenses.

Source: FBI, "Identity Theft", December 04, 2014

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