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Identity Theft: It Can Happen to Anyone

Posted on in Criminal Defense

Wisconsin defense attorney, Wisconsin criminal lawyer, white collar crimeIdentity theft occurs when one individual uses another individual’s personal identifying information to obtain certain benefits, such as using a credit card to purchase clothing or a medical card to receive medical treatment. Basically, anything you use to identify yourself is considered personal identifying information, except for those records that are available to the general public. Personal information includes Social Security numbers, places of employment, DNA profile, fingerprints, bank or credit card account numbers, driver’s license, security codes and even online accounts and passwords.

Due to the rapidly changing technological environment of the world today, identity theft has spread like wildfire. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, approximately 16.6 million people experienced identity theft across the United States, which resulted in $24.7 billion in financial losses. The two most common types of identity theft involve credit cards and bank accounts. The Federal Trade Commission reported that over 3,635 citizens of Wisconsin fell victim to identity theft. More than 1,500 of those cases involved government documents or benefits and over 470 cases involved credit cards.

If you, or someone you know is wrongfully being investigated for identity theft, you should consult an experienced identity theft attorney to fight the charges and clear your name.

Identity Theft in Wisconsin

In order for the prosecution to secure an identity theft conviction against you under Wisconsin law, they have to prove four elements:
  1. That you intentionally used, attempted to use or possessed with the intent to use personal identifying information or personal identification documents of an individual;
  2. Without the authorization or consent of that individual; and
  3. You either represented that you were the individual, that you were acting on behalf of the individual or that the documents belonged to you;
  4. For the purposes of:
    1. Obtaining credit, money, goods, services, employment, or any other thing of value or benefit;
    2. Avoiding civil or criminal process or penalty; or
    3. Harming the reputation, property, person, or estate of the individual.

Although identity theft in Wisconsin is a Class H felony, which is the lowest level felony available, it still carries a stiff punishment of up to six years in prison and fines up to $10,000. Additionally, prosecutors can make the punishment more severe if the identity theft took place with another felony, such as grand larceny, a fraudulent scheme, or even forgery.

However, if you have a clean record, the court may order probation, which could possibly be as short as one year. If you are convicted of identity theft, and the individual suffered financial losses, you will almost always be required to pay restitution, on top of the other fines and court fees. Restitution damages compensate victims for the damages they incurred as a result of the identity theft.

If you were unjustly accused of identity theft, you should consider consulting an experienced Milwaukee criminal defense attorney who will be able identify your options, determine the possible punishment you face and advise you of the best solution to your problem.
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