As an increasing number of people in Illinois rely on digital identity information for their daily lives and financial management, allegations of identity theft have become more common. In many instances, identity theft cases are investigated at the federal level, especially as computer fraud is often associated with these charges. Identity theft can encompass a wide range of accusations; it can refer to email phishing attempts that seek to gain credit card or banking information, false IDs for immigration purposes or new identities for fugitives.
Identity theft cases often involve law enforcement cooperation. But local or state police agencies may work with the FBI. In 1998, Congress made it a federal crime to knowingly use someone else’s identification to commit any state or federal offense. In 2004, another Congressional act established enhanced penalties for certain cases. These cases include immigration violations, theft of Social Security benefits and domestic terrorism-related offenses. People convicted of identity theft under these circumstances would receive two more years in prison, a penalty that rose to five years in terrorism cases.
The term identity theft can apply to the misuse of a wide range of identifying information, such as Social Security numbers, passport numbers, banking information, passwords, telephone numbers and even biometric data like fingerprints. As online activity has risen so has identity theft; complaints almost doubled from 2010 to 2015. However, the FBI says that identity theft cases are actually higher than reported. Some cases may never reach law enforcement as they involve family members, and others are classified differently by local police agencies.
When someone is accused of identity theft or other federal crimes, they could face substantial penalties, including large fines and significant prison time. A federal criminal defense lawyer can work to respond to complex, technical evidence and challenge the narratives of the prosecution in order to prevent a conviction.