Identity theft is when someone uses another person’s identifying information to further an unlawful purpose. This crime has evolved over the past two decades largely due to the internet, which allows for more sophisticated attempts to steal identity such as phishing scams. Identity theft complaints nearly doubled between 2010 and 2015, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Identity theft is a federal crime under the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act and the Theft Penalty Enhancement Act mandates increased penalties for aggravated identity theft. The Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Trade Commission, the Secret Service and the Postal Inspection Service all help to investigate and prosecute identity theft crimes.
In Pennsylvania, the penalty for identity theft depends upon the value of the stolen property. If the total value is less than $2,000, it is considered a misdemeanor of the first degree. First degree misdemeanors may carry penalties of up to five years’ incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000.
If the property value is more than $2,000, the offense will constitute a felony of the second degree if it was a third or subsequent offense. If the offense was committed in furtherance of a criminal conspiracy, it is a felony of the third degree. Conviction for this type of offense may carry a fine of up to $25,000 and a prison sentence of up to ten years.
Those convicted of identity theft in Pennsylvania will also be required to provide restitution to compensate victims for their losses. They may also be sentenced to probation in lieu of incarceration and fines. Those charged with identity theft may benefit from the assistance of a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer who understands the legal system as well as defendants’ legal rights and options.