Identity theft is one of the fastest-growing crimes today, and it has been for a number of years. Victims of identity theft can suffer significant losses of money, not to mention damage to their credit rating and having to spend countless hours trying to restore things back to normal. Up until 2004, identity theft was technically only a crime if it was done in association with breaking another law. In 2004, Congress established the crime of aggravated identity theft at Title 18 United States Code, Section 1028A.
Under this statute, law enforcement is able to arrest and charge people when they possess or use personally identifying information (“PII”) without permission. Making it illegal to merely possess PII before it is used allows law enforcement and prosecutors to take action against those who engage in identity theft before they actually obtain money or use someone else’s credit. Additionally, the law provides for a 2-year minimum mandatory sentence upon conviction, which must run consecutively (or after) to any other sentence, and is a powerful deterrent to anyone who is thinking about committing this crime.
There are many different activities that law enforcement can use when charging someone with aggravated identity theft. Common examples include crimes associated with a credit card, bank, or wire fraud, as well as crimes related to passport and visa fraud, to name but a few.
The vast majority of activity related to aggravated identity theft takes place on the dark web. Regular readers of this blog know that the dark web is where criminals buy, sell and trade the PII of their victims. The dark web allows transactions to be conducted anonymously, which can make it difficult for law enforcement to track down criminals. Over the past several years, law enforcement has developed the tools to pierce the veil of anonymity, infiltrate the dark web and track down and prosecute those who are involved.
Most banks and companies can only assist their customers whose identities are stolen in recovering their losses if the fraud is discovered immediately. To protect yourself, if your financial institution has fraud alerts available, be sure to avail yourself of this option. Also, be sure to activate “two-factor authentication” on all of your important financial accounts as well as your social media. This feature will alert you if someone else is trying to log in to your account and thwart the attempts. You may also want to consider subscribing to a service that protects your data, such as Lifelock.
Barry M. Wax has extensive experience defending identity theft and related offenses. Prosecutions can be very complex and demand significant analysis by a knowledgeable Miami criminal defense attorney who understands all aspects of this type of crime. If you are under investigation for identity theft or are charged with aggravated identity theft or similar crimes, Contact Barry M. Wax to schedule a consultation today.