In recent years, it has become increasingly easy to access the personal information of others online. And while there is nothing wrong with researching people to contact for business or other opportunities, it is quite another thing to use the personal data of others for fraudulent purposes, such as to assume someone else's identity.
Simply put, identity theft is using someone else's information to commit fraud or theft. There are a variety of ways to access a person's information, which range from Internet scams to simply stealing a purse or wallet. Social Security numbers, birth certificates, credit card and bank account numbers and a wide array of other personal data can be incorporated to perpetrate identity fraud.
And while it may seem a comparatively benign act in that no one is physically harmed, the federal government takes identity theft very seriously. Since 1998, with the passage of the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act, identity theft has been a federal crime. The Act makes it a federal offense to use stolen information to commit any act that violates federal law or is considered a felony on the local or state level.
Additionally, the Identity Theft Penalty Enhancement Act, which was passed in 2004, further expanded federal identity theft laws. This act added the concept of "aggravated" identity theft, which extends to using a stolen identity to commit such crimes as acts of domestic terrorism, Social Security benefits theft and immigration violations.
If you have been charged with having committed identity theft, you should take the matter very seriously. Preparing an effective defense is typically best done by soliciting the counsel of an experienced federal criminal attorney. The attorney could help you answer the charges imposed by both state and federal authorities and work toward getting you a more favorable outcome.