Identity theft can easily be described as one of the world’s fastest growing crimes. This occurs when an individual obtains a victim’s personal information and uses that information for his or her benefit. Whether it is copying someone’s signature on a check to steal some money or a sophisticated scam encoding credit cards with stolen account numbers, identity theft comes in all forms and magnitudes.
Whether a skimmer is used to swipe information, an individual has counterfeit, stolen or fraudulently obtained credit cards, or someone is using forged business checks, it is important to understand at what point the crime of identity theft has been committed. To assume another’s identity, an individual must present himself as that other person, act as that other person or use personal identifying information.How is "Personal Information" Defined?
The New York State legislature has further defined “personal information” as, among other things, one's name, social security number, debit card number and even merely the victim’s mother’s maiden name. Identity theft can range from an A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year jail to a D felony, which is punishable by up to seven years in state prison, depending on the value of the property stolen.When You Could Face Elevated Charges
It is important to note that prosecutors often have the ability to elevate the level of the charges when an individual commits identity theft along with another felony. For example, if an individual, without permission, signs the name of an account holder to a check and withdraws only $100, the offense is identity theft in the first degree.
While the amount is less than $2,000, as required by the statute for the first degree offense, signing another person’s name is forgery in the second degree, which is also a D felony. Therefore, the forgery can be joined with the original identity theft charge and elevate it because of the provision in the statute that addresses whether the identity theft occurred in the furtherance of committing another felony.
Identity theft is often charged together with other crimes such as larceny, forgery, possession of a forged instrument or criminal possession of stolen property.