The common image of identity theft is dramatic. A savvy computer hacker gets someone’s information out of a secure database, maybe, and wracks up hundreds of thousands in debt. That’s what identity theft means in the movies, after all.
In real life, identity theft is more complex. Colorado is the second most at-risk state in the US for identity theft. There are many crimes that are considered identity theft in Colorado, and not all of them involve getting someone’s social security number. All of them involve pretending to be someone you’re not, however.
Financial Identity Theft
Financial identity theft is most like the common conception of identity theft. This crime is defined as any type of theft that uses someone’s personal information to access their credit or financial resources.
That includes bank accounts, loans, credit cards, or accounts like PayPal or Venmo. Financial identity theft can also cover certain money order scams, tax returns, or fraudulent checks.
Criminal Identity Theft
Wait – aren’t all of these “criminal”? Yes, but criminal identity theft occurs when someone uses another’s identity when being charged with a crime.
For example, if you give someone else’s name during a traffic stop, you have just gone from receiving a misdemeanor speeding ticket to committing a felony. Offering wrong identifying information during any other charges is a crime as well.
In a romance scam, the perpetrator uses someone else’s information to “date” someone online. The goal is to convince the victim to fall in love with their fake persona and send the perpetrator money or private information.
Once the victim becomes suspicious or runs out of money, the perpetrator abandons their fake identity and disappears. When the scammer uses a real person’s information, it becomes identity theft.
Child Identity Theft
Child identity theft involves using a child’s information to do any of the other crimes on this list. Frequently, child identity theft occurs when a parent or caretaker uses their child’s information to take out loans or credit cards without paying them back. This can ruin the child’s credit for years or decades after they reach the age of majority.
Medical Identity Theft
In a medical identity theft crime, the perpetrator uses someone else’s information to receive medical services or medications. These crimes rarely pertain to minimal treatments or preventative care, like getting a wellness check.
More commonly, medical identity theft charges occur in conjunction with drug crimes. Perpetrators may use the private information of someone with a prescription for opioids or Aderral to take their medication, for instance.
Colorado Identity Theft Penalties
An identity theft charges on its own is considered a class 4 felony. Class 4 felonies are punishable with two to six years in jail. Depending on the nature of the crime, it is up to the judge’s discretion to order you to pay $500,000 max in fines…if it’s your first offense.
This amount can be doubled if this is not the first time you’ve been convicted of an identity theft crime.
Furthermore, say you’ve committed an identity theft crime in order to steal funds. The stolen funds will add another theft crime to your charges, and penalties upon the separate conviction will be calculated according to the total value of the drugs which were stolen.
Identity theft is a serious crime. Regardless of the specific context, identity theft harms people’s financial, medical, or personal lives. If someone alleges that you have committed identity theft, this serious accusation warrants an experienced Colorado criminal defense attorney at your side.
In the meantime, be careful with others’ personal information, and make sure that you always use your own ID to avoid these serious criminal charges.
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.