The advent of the internet has given rise to a special type of theft crime—identity theft.
Identity theft involves using another’s identity without their consent for your own benefit. Typically, identity theft is used to for financial gain—for instance, to apply for credit cards, loans, or housing. With identity theft crimes, offenders take personal information from a victim without their consent by illegal means, such as stealing their mail, wallet, or emails. Increasingly, identity theft crimes are committed by hacking into a victim’s computer using software that collects personal information.
We’ve listed eight common examples of identity theft crimes below.
Financial identity theft. The most common type of identity theft involves stealing another’s bank account or other financial information for personal benefit. If you set up a bank account in another person’s name without their permission, you can be charged with identity theft. Similarly, using another’s ATM card or writing checks in another person’s name may also constitute identity theft crimes.
Tax return theft. This type of identity theft involves filing a fraudulent tax return in another’s name. If the IRS receives the fraudulent tax return before the true recipient files their claim, the IRS may send the check to the fraudulent filer and the victim can be deprived of the refund.
Driver’s license theft. This straightforward type of identity theft involves trying to pass off another person’s license as your own. People who engage in this type of identity theft often present stolen licenses after being stopped for a traffic offense or drunk driving in order to avoid consequences. The offender escapes charges, leaving the victim to deal with a tarnished record and spiked insurance rates. Offenders may use the stolen license to give to police officers after being arrested for other types of crimes as well.
Utility theft. With utility theft crimes, offenders typically find victims with good credit records and use their information to apply for electricity, gas, television, or phone services. If you supply false names and addresses to avoid paying for utilities, you could be charged with identity theft.
Social Security Number theft. You can be charged with identity theft for using someone else’s Social Security Number (SSN). Common motives behind using another’s SSN include attempting to take someone else’s benefits, falsifying passports or other important documents, or applying for loans and credit cards.
Medical identity theft. This type of identity theft involves taking someone else’s medical identity in order to obtain health insurance or medical coverage benefits. If you make a medical claim in your name using another’s identity, you can be charged with medical identity theft.
Insurance fraud. According to the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud, insurance fraud is one of the US’s most common crimes, costing the country more than $80 billion each year. Insurance fraud is an umbrella term that encompasses a variety of criminal actions involving supplying false information to collect insurance benefits. When you steal another’s insurance identity, they may be left with difficulties securing coverage as well as higher insurance premiums.
Creating a new identity. You can be charged with identity theft if you use different pieces of personal information from multiple victims to create a completely new identity—for instance, if you combine someone’s SSN with another person’s name and contact information to open up a bank account or apply for loans or housing.
The Penalties for Identity Theft in Colorado
Under Colorado law, identity theft crimes are class 4 felonies and punishable by incarceration for up to six years and heavy fines that often exceed thousands of dollars. Similarly, if the incident caused a victim to lose money or suffer financial harm, you may be required to pay restitution in addition to fines in order to compensate the alleged victim for his or her loss. If you are convicted of identity theft, you may also be left with a lifelong criminal record that may make it difficult to obtain employment, loans, or housing in the future.
As Colorado law cracks down on identity theft crimes, it’s more important than ever to seek legal representation if you have been accused of this type of offense. Colorado identity theft laws are complex, and you’ll need the best defense possible if you want to avoid consequences to your freedom and reputation.
Talk to a knowledgeable Colorado theft crimes attorney if you have been charged with identity theft. A skilled attorney can explain your options and help you determine the most powerful defense strategies in your unique situation. With the guidance of an experienced defense lawyer, you may be able to have your identity theft charges reduced or dismissed.
About the Author:
Kimberly Diego is a criminal defense attorney in Denver practicing at The Law Office of Kimberly Diego. She obtained her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University and her law degree at the University of Colorado. She was named one of Super Lawyers’ “Rising Stars of 2012” and “Top 100 Trial Lawyers in Colorado” for 2012 and 2013 by The National Trial Lawyers. Both honors are limited to a small percentage of practicing attorneys in each state. She has also been recognized for her work in domestic violence cases.