Identity Theft Lawyers
Have you or a loved one been charged with federal identity theft or a federal computer crime? If so, contact our office today. Not every defense attorney is admitted to practice in federal court, so it is critically important that you find an experienced federal criminal defense attorney to who is able to successfully represent clients charged with this serious crime.
What Is Identity Theft?
Identity theft happens when a person steals someone else’s personal information and uses it to obtain loans or credit cards or to purchase cars, homes or other assets. These types of offenses include:
- ‘Shoulder surfing’ – watching or listening to someone punch in or speak out their credit card numbers and collecting that information.
- Hacking into computers to obtain passwords and bank information.
- Getting private information through “phishing” and “whaling” operations (e.g., attempting to get private credit card information and password information through emails)
- Obtaining information from networks of retailers and the federal government
- Spoofing (this means setting up a web site for a business and using this to collect credit card information from person who think they are completing legitimate business transactions)
Laws about Identity Theft
Identity theft crimes are usually charged under 18 U.S.C. § 1028 (which relates to fraud and other related activities in connection with identification documents, authentication features, and other information). The penalties for identity theft range from fines to a maximum prison sentence of 5 to up to 15 years. The penalty for federal identity theft also may involve the forfeiture of any personal property used to commit the crime. A court may also order someone convicted of identity theft to pay restitution to the victims in an identity theft case, as stated in 18 U.S.C. § 3663(b)(6).
Under the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act of 2004, there is a new crime called “aggravated identity theft” which may be charged under 18 U.S.C. § 1028A. This crime is committed when someone knowingly transfers, possesses, or uses, without lawful authority a means of identification belonging to someone else, during and in relation to, any felony violation of certain federal felony offenses including 18 U.S.C. § 1028. This crime carries a mandatory 2 year prison sentence.
Computer Fraud Crimes
In 1984, the Congress passed the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. This act is codified at 18 U.S.C. § 1030. Under this law, it is a crime to commit several different types of computer offenses. These offenses include:
- Accessing computer files without authorization.
- Obtaining, without access, information from financial institutions, the U.S. government, or private sector computers used in interstate commerce. This includes hacking into a company’s database and stealing credit card information stored there.
- Accessing a federal government computer without authorization.
- Accessing a protected computer, without authorization, with the intent to defraud and gain something of value.
- Damaging a computer through a virus, bad code, or any other means. This generally refers to hacking.
- Trafficking in passwords allowing access to computer systems. This generally includes selling passwords to defraud a company’s site.
- Threatening to harm a computer in order to extort something of value.
Defenses in Computer Fraud And Identity Theft Cases
- Statute of Limitations – the statute of limitations may bar an action against someone for computer fraud charges if more than 5 years have passed since the commission of the crime
- Jurisdiction – if the government does not prove that a computer fraud crime affects interstate or foreign commerce, they usually cannot convict a defendant of the crime.
- Good Faith – In an identity theft case, a defendant can use good faith if they had no fraudulent intent to commit identity theft.
- Illegal Search – This defense can be used by someone charged with identity theft when the police find evidence through an illegal search that was not supported by probable cause. This type of search violates the Fourth Amendment’s prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.
If an offense involves the production or transfer of a US-issued document of identification or if the document is a counterfeit of such a document, or if the alleged offender possesses the equipment necessary to produce such documents, they may be subject to a maximum of 15 years imprisonment in addition to applicable fines. The same penalty may apply to anyone who is found guilty of identity theft by which the offender fraudulently accuses at least $1,000 in money, goods or services in the course of one year. If a case of identity theft is determined to be a means to commit or aid in terrorism, whether international or domestic, the term of imprisonment is increased to a maximum of 30 years.
- Incarceration – a conviction for a federal identity theft crime and result in a significant sentence, from five to fifteen years, and can be increased to 20 years or more depending on the circumstances.
- Fines – it is not uncommon for courts to order someone convicted of an infinity theft crime to pay a fine which can range from $1,000 – $5,000 or more.
- Restitution – if the crime results in a victim losing money or suffering financial harm, the courts will commonly order restitution, which is designed to compensate the victim for his or her loss.
- Probation – for first-time offenders, it’s possible that a court might impose probation vs. incarceration in addition to other penalties. Probation can last from one year to three or more years. While on probation, you will have to comply with specific court-imposed restrictions, such as reporting to a probation officer, paying all restitution and fines and not committing other crimes.
The Law Office of Jeremy Gordon has been practicing federal criminal appeals and post-conviction law since 2012. We have had favorable outcomes in more than 70 cases in the past four years. Our entire staff is committed to providing excellent service to our clients and their families. We encourage you to contact our office today to visit with us on how we might be able to help you or your loved one get the representation they deserve. You can also add us on Facebook or Twitter.