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Identity theft cases surge during recession

| Nov 23, 2020 | Criminal Defense |

A difficult economy this past year has led to a surge in allegations of white collar crime, in particular online identity theft, as the ranks of the unemployed have grown and people have gotten more desperate. In one recent report in Indianapolis, a case of stolen identity involved the filing for almost $2,400 in allegedly fraudulent unemployment benefits.

Even though Indiana’s unemployment rate dropped to 6.4% in August, the accusations of online fraud have surged as $5 billion in unemployment claims have been paid out to Hoosiers. Not all cases of mistaken identity are criminal, however, especially when it occurs on the internet. To prove a case of identity theft, there must be proof of intent and enough evidence for charges to stick.

Federal and state identity theft penalties

Congress passed the Identity Theft and Assumption Deterrence Act in 1998, which made identity theft a federal crime. They followed this up in 2004 with another law increasing penalties for aggravated identity theft on conviction. The main federal agencies that pursue identity theft prosecutions are:

  • The FBI
  • The Secret Service
  • The Postal Inspection Service
  • The Federal Trade Commission

Indiana law classifies identity theft as an automatic Class D felony, with sentences of one year in prison and up to a $10,000 fine. If convicted of identity theft involving more than 100 cases, it becomes a Class C felony with two years in prison and up to $50,000 in fines.

Proving identity theft

When working on building an effective defense with an experienced attorney, your individual circumstances will determine what strategies will be most effective in proving your innocence. It could be a case of mistaken identity, or a misunderstanding in which you thought you had permission to use a business partner or friend’s account. If the intent was not there, the burden of proof that it was lies with the prosecution.

It is important when facing accusations of fraud or identity theft to remember that you are innocent until proven guilty. Which means it is up to the prosecution to prove that you had intent beyond a reasonable doubt to commit a crime, and they also must have sufficient evidence to convince a jury of your guilt. A skilled attorney will point this out and work to get your case dismissed.