The unauthorized use, or even possession, of someone else’s personal identifying information can result in charges of identity theft. Identity theft is a crime that occurs when someone uses another person’s personal information to pose as the person in order to obtain goods, services, or something of value, like credit.
According to 2018 Identity Fraud: Fraud Enters a New Era of Complexity from Javelin Strategy & Research, in 2017, there were 16.7 million victims of identity fraud, a record high that followed a previous record the year before.
A common identity theft scenario might involve calling someone and claiming to be a representative from the bank or IRS. During the call, a person is asked to verify his or her financial and identifying information, like a mailing address, date of birth, bank account number, or social security number. That information is used then, to make unlawful withdrawals from the person’s bank account.
Identity Theft in California
In California, the law against identity theft is found in Penal Code Section 530.5. Under the Penal Code, identity theft is obtaining and using another person’s personal information for an unlawful or fraudulent purpose, as follows:
- Obtaining and using another person’s information without their consent for an unlawful purpose;
- Obtaining and using another person’s information without their consent to commit fraud;
- Selling, transferring or conveying another’s personal information without their consent with the intent to commit fraud, and
- Selling, transferring or conveying another’s personal information without their consent knowing that the information will be used to commit fraud,
Identity Theft Penalties
Identity theft is a wobbler offense in California. This means that it can be charged as a felony or a misdemeanor depending on the facts of the offense and the accused person’s criminal history. A misdemeanor conviction will result in up to one year in county jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. A felony conviction will result in up to three years in state prison, a fine of up to $10,000 or both.
Examples of Identity Theft
Examples of identity theft include:
- Stolen checks;
- Stolen ATM cards;
- Fraudulent change of address;
- Social security number misuse;
- Passport misuse;
- Driver license number misuse; and
- False civil and criminal judgment.