Crime Overview Identity Theft

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In 2006, 9.3 million Americans became victims of identity theft, and the number is only expected to rise in the coming years. Friends of the victim perpetrate nearly half of all identity theft crimes, and unfortunately the negative effects can last for years.

Identity theft and identity fraud are terms used to refer to all types of crime in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data in some way that involves fraud or deception, typically for economic gain. No distinction is made between whether or not the identifying information is stolen for personal or financial use it's a crime either way. Personal information such as credit history, social security numbers, and PINs are often stolen through the offender's unlawful access to various accounts such as government and financial entities, lost or stolen mail, wallets, purses, identification and credit or debit cards.

Because identity theft is one of the fastest growing crimes in America, laws are growing more strict and a zero-tolerance policy is being enforced. If you are convicted of identity theft, you will either spend time in prison, pay fines, or be sued by the person whose identity you stole or all of the above.

Even the area near your home or office may not be secure. Some criminals engage in "dumpster diving" by going through your garbage cans or a communal dumpster or trash bin, in order to obtain copies of your checks, credit card or bank statements, or other records that typically bear your name, address, and even your telephone number or social security number. These types of records make it easier for criminals to get control over accounts in your name, or open new accounts, and thereby assume your identity.

If you receive applications for "preapproved" credit cards in the mail, but throw them away without tearing up the enclosed materials, criminals may retrieve them and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge. Some credit card companies, when sending credit cards, have adopted security measures that allow a card recipient to activate the card only from his or her home telephone number, but this is not yet a universal practice. Also, if your mail is delivered to a place where others have ready access to it, such as an apartment building with unsecured mailboxes, criminals may simply intercept and redirect your mail to another location.

Recently, due to the increase in technology, the Internet has become a cesspool for identity theft. Identity thieves engage in various methods by which to obtain passwords or even banking information through the Internet. One of the most common methods of obtaining such information fraudulently are phishing scams, whereby criminals send out emails intended to resemble emails from popular banking or money-transaction sites like PayPal, asking for the user's credit-card information or other account details.

If you have been accused of identity theft, whether you are guilty or not, you will need to hire a criminal lawyer or attorney. If you are suing a convicted criminal for damages resulting from identity theft, you should hire a civil lawyer or attorney. If the person was not convicted and you still want to sue for damages, you should still hire a civil lawyer or attorney.

Criminal lawyers and attorneys represent individuals who have been charged with crimes by arguing their cases in courts of law. A criminal lawyer or attorney will typically have a private practice concentrating on criminal law.

If you have been arrested for identity theft, you must request or contact an attorney at the time you are arrested. A good criminal attorney will be familiar with important identity theft laws of the state in which the crime took place in addition to being familiar with local court customs and procedures.

When searching for a criminal lawyer or attorney, visit the American Bar Association. The ABA site offers free access to their lawyer locator to help you find a criminal lawyer or attorney in your area.