As technology continues to progress, criminals employ these advancements for their purposes. For example, types of theft that were once committed in person or over the telephone are generally able to be conducted via the internet. The Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office has been conducting widespread awareness campaigns and educational initiatives that explain the best practices to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
Three Leading Types of Identity-Related Fraud
Misuse of someone's credit card
Misuse of someone's existing bank account
Misuse of someone's personal information
Approximately 80% of those who are victims of identity theft are unable to determine how their information was acquired. About 50% of victims are not aware of the theft for at least 30 days. Roughly 10% of victims are not aware of the theft for two or more years.
Understanding Identity Theft
The crime is a form of theft that involves an offender who uses someone's personal information for unlawful fraudulent activity without the victim's knowledge or permission. The perpetrator may use the victim's personal information to open an account in their name or may commit fraud on existing accounts.
Types of Personal Documents
Identification cards are highly sensitive including driver's licenses, other state-issued forms of identification, and employee or student identification cards. Other documents that contain sensitive personal data include Social Security cards, birth certificates, bank statements, and payroll or tax documents. Personal data is commonly accessed electronically from unauthorized access (a breach) to customer databases, employee files, and electronic health record systems.
Grading of Offenses
If the value of the theft is less than $2,000, the offense is charged as a first-degree misdemeanor. If the value exceeds $2,000, the offense is charged as a third-degree felony. If the theft involves multiple individuals who conspire to commit the crime, the offense is also a third-degree felony. Third-time offenses are upgraded to a second-degree felony. If the victim is under 18 years of age or over 60 years of age, the offense is increased by one level.
- A second-degree felony offense is punishable by up to 10 years in prison and a $25,000 fine
- A third-degree felony offense is punishable by up to seven years in prison and a $15,000 fine
- A first-degree misdemeanor is punishable by up to five years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine
Restitution in Lancaster County
The court may require the offender to make restitution in addition to the other penalties imposed. Restitution is an order that a victim is repaid for losses that result directly from a crime. It does not include funds for noneconomic damages such as “pain and suffering” that are often seen in civil cases.
Breach of Personal Information Notification Act (P.L. 474, No. 94)
Pennsylvania's Breach of Personal Information Notification Act was implemented in 2005 to assist with protecting consumers. Organizations that maintain personal information, such as in a customer database, must notify the individuals if their data was potentially exposed. This exposure is generally referred to as a data breach, which may occur from a security failure or illegal access. This Act considers the following as personal information:
- An individual's last name and first name or initial
- Social security number
- Driver's license or state identification card number
- Any number associated with a financial account, credit card or debit card
- Public information such as addresses are excluded
Criminal Defense for Allegations of Identity Theft
Have you been charged with identity theft or another serious offense? Joseph D. Lento is a seasoned criminal defense lawyer that represents clients in Lancaster County. For a complimentary case evaluation, contact the office at (888) 535-3686 today.