Massachusetts Legal Developments Blog

Look Out for Identity Thieves

Identity theft happens when someone steals the personal or financial information of someone else in an attempt to assume that individual's identity for financial gain. Identity theft or identity fraud is a serious crime. According to news reports, identity theft is on the rise and happens every two seconds in the US today. Thieves are constantly searching online or sifting through dumpsters and other places to find their next victim. Nobody is really immune from identity theft. Thieves look for personal data, such as social security numbers, driver's licenses, home addresses, credit card numbers or bank accounts. Identity thieves can be living in your house, as a roommate, friend, or family member.

You can be charged with identity theft when you intended to use the personal information of another person without actually going through with it. If you obtained or stole another person's personal information, you can be charged with identity fraud. The Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act (ITPEA) has made the punishment for identity theft more severe for people who commit the crime. ITPEA says that anyone who obtains or steals another person's identity with the intent to use the information to commit a second crime, the perpetrator will have two additional years added to their punishment and no possibility of probation. A criminal defense attorney can explain how ITPEA may impact your case. Punishment for an identity theft conviction may include:

  • Jail time: A conviction may yield jail or prison time for years

  • Probation: The convicted may have to conform to mandatory imposed restrictions made by the court

  • Restitution: The perpetrator may have to pay back money taken from a victim

  • Fines: The courts may impose hefty fines on the defendant

According to Massachusetts Law, the crime of identity theft is committed as soon as the personal information is obtained with an intention to use it without permission. You can be punished by up to two and a half years in jail, a fine of up to $5,000, or both. The court may order you to pay restitution to the victim, which may include the cost of repairing the victim's credit. The signs that you may have been a victim of identity theft (fraud) may include:

  • Not receiving monthly bills related to your accounts

  • Being denied credit

  • Receiving call from debt collectors

  • Seeing charges on your account that you did not make

  • Receiving credit cards that you did not request

If you have been a victim of identity theft, you should request a fraud alert on your credit reports. This will alert lenders and creditors that they should take additional measures to verify your identity before lending money or extending credit. You also can place a freeze on each of your credit reports. A freeze prevents creditors from accessing your credit reports. You should contact any bank or company you are doing business with and tell them about the identity theft. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and make an Identity Theft Report. The FTC will guide you through the process. Call your local law enforcement and report the crime.

If you have been charged with committing identity theft (fraud), you need to contact a criminal defense attorney immediately. The consequences can include jail time, fines and a conviction. Boston Criminal Defense Attorney, Edward Molari can provide you with legal advice that may help reduce the punishment or lessen the charge. He cares about your situation and provides personalized legal services in every case. Contact Attorney, Edward Molari at 617-942-1532 for a free consultation.