Identity theft is a serious crime in both state and federal law. With the development of technology, new and more advanced forms of identity theft have arisen, leading to increased enforcement. Several federal agencies have the authority to investigate and prosecute this crime, including the FBI, the Secret Service and the Federal Trade Commission. If you are accused of committing this crime, you could face harsh penalties, including jail time.
What is identity theft?
The most basic definition of identity theft is any activity that results in the illegal transfer or use of someone else’s personal information to commit a crime. One common purpose of committing identity theft is using the information for financial gain. This includes activities such as using personal information to apply for loans or open credit cards. Someone may also commit identity theft to set up another persona under which to engage in illegal activities.
Due to increased vigilance about this type of crime, laws are becoming stricter. For example, originally, to get a conviction, prosecutors would have to prove that the accused used the information to commit a crime. This meant having to prove two crimes happened. Currently, just unlawfully obtaining the information can get you convicted even in the absence of proof you did anything with it.
Today, many identity theft and fraud crimes are committed via the internet. If law enforcement agents track any unauthorized electronic access to your devices, you could face criminal charges. Identity theft and fraud allegations also often go hand in hand. Thus, initial accusations of unlawful access can snowball into allegations that can land you in jail for years if convicted. Federal law also provides for aggravated charges if law enforcement alleges the identity theft related to terrorist activities.
What if you find yourself under investigation?
Another important thing to understand about federal charges is they often arise in the course of investigating criminal schemes or organizations. Many people get swept up when their name turns up in some capacity. In such cases, prosecutors often use accomplice charges that can make you responsible for someone else’s crimes as well.
If you become aware that investigators are targeting you or your company, speak with an experienced federal defense attorney as soon as possible. Even if you believe you cannot possibly be in real trouble, the truth is that, once an investigation is under way, you are at risk. Avoid speaking with investigators or providing them with any materials until you have consulted your attorney. Retaining top legal assistance right away is your best chance at obtaining an optimally favorable outcome.