What is identity theft?
Identity theft is one of the most common crimes in the digital age and if you are facing charges for any “identity” related offense, you need a distinguished New York criminal attorney representing you.
Identity theft is essentially a type of fraud and there are many tools available to state and federal law enforcement when investigating identity crimes or tracking illegal online activity. Rest assured you will face vigorous prosecution. Some of the more common crimes that involve stolen identification information may include:
- Credit or debit card fraud
- Phishing scams
- Email scams and fraud
- Wire fraud
- Unlawful possession of personal identification information
- Unlawful possession or use of “skimmer” machines
- Committing other “schemes to defraud”
All of these tactics can be used to unlawfully obtain personal identifying information of other people in furtherance of crime or fraud. Depending on the nature of the identity theft, you may face misdemeanor or felony charges. A New York criminal attorney can explain you situation work on your behalf to reduce or eliminate your criminal exposure if you are facing charges.
Is identity theft the same as credit card fraud?
Although the two offenses often overlap where, for example, you used stolen credit card information to commit fraud; the two offenses are not always one-and-the-same. If you used your own credit card or public benefit card to obtain services to which you are not entitled, you may also have committed fraud but not identity theft.
- A good example of this offense is where you used or attempted to use a credit card, , public transit fare card, public benefit card or your social security number to obtain goods or services when you were not entitled to the services.
As discussed above, identity theft encompasses a broad range of offenses and types of “personal identifying information”. Under New York Penal Code 190.77, it is unlawful to use a person’s name, Social Security number, birth date, address, phone number, bank account number ATM PIN number, mother’s maiden name, and many other types of personal information. The basic definition of identity theft is:
- You knowingly or with the intent to defraud assumed the identity of another person by presenting yourself as that person, by acting as that person or by using their personal or credit card information, you obtained money, services or other goods and caused the other person a financial loss. Under New York Penal Code 190.78 this is a third degree offense and a Class A misdemeanor.
- If the amount stolen is greater than $500 you may be charged with a Class E felony for Identity Theft in the Second Degree under New York Penal Code 190.79
- If the amount stolen is greater than $2,000, you may face Class D felony charges for First Degree Identity Theft under New York Penal Code 190.80
- In most cases, these offenses will result in probation. However, you can face jail time depending on the circumstances.
Credit card fraud can involve all of the elements listed above. The applicable section of the Penal Code 161.15 makes it unlawful to steal credit information of another person and attempt to use that information. Likewise, it is unlawful to knowingly use the stolen credit information of another person, even if you aren’t the person who stole the information to begin with.
- Credit card fraud or theft is treated as “theft of services” under the New York Penal Code
- Penal Code 165.15 makes it unlawful for you to obtain or attempt to obtain services or induce a seller to supply goods or services using a card that has been stolen or is known to be stolen.
- Under Penal Code 165.17, it is unlawful for you to use a credit card, debit card or public benefit card to obtain property or services if you know that the card has been revoked, cancelled or exhausted.
- Both of these crimes are Class A misdemeanors. However, if you have a prior criminal history or repeated acts of similar crimes, you may face more severe charges and harsher punishment.
What is “phishing” and why is it illegal?
Phishing scams are one of the most common ways that criminals attempt to steal the identity of other persons. As such, it is one form of identity theft and the Penal Code sections discussed above include phishing as a criminal offense. Phishing is a common means of identity theft and a serious crime. It is defined under the New York Business Code 390 (b).
- Known as the New York “Anti-Phishing Act”, Section 390 (b) makes it unlawful for you to use a web page, email or other internet tool to solicit or collect the personal identifying information of other people by deceptive means or without the approval of the company, business or government agency.
What are some defenses to charges of identity theft?
There are many potential defenses that could be raised to defend against charges of identity theft or credit card fraud. Every case is different and the most viable defense can only be developed with the assistance of a skilled criminal defense attorney. The law does provide for some specific affirmative defenses based on the accused person’s age or purpose for using personal information of another person.
- If you were ONLY misrepresenting your age to get into an age-restricted venue, your attorney may be able to raise this as a defense.
- If you are under 21 and were ONLY trying to purchase alcohol with another person’s identification, or you were under the age of 18 and were ONLY attempting to purchase tobacco, you may have a viable affirmative defense to identity theft charges.
In any event, only an experienced attorney who has a thorough knowledge of New York’s criminal laws can help you build the best defense. George Vomvolakis has years of criminal law experience as a private defense attorney and prosecutor. Call today for a free evaluation of your case!